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Thesis ABSTRACT

Moderating effects of psychological sense of community on physical activity among African American women in two community settings
by Arteaga, S. Sonia, M.A., University of Maryland Baltimore County, 2003

Engaging in physical activity has many psychological and physiological health benefits. There has been a dearth of research addressing the factors that contribute to physical activity among women of color. The present study sought to better understand the role that intrapersonal and contextual factors may have in engagement of physical activity among urban, low-income African American women. All of the participants were part of a welfare-to-work program that took place in a school setting, the Caroline Center. To asses the impact of contextual variables on physical activity, women were asked about the impact of both the Caroline Center and their home neighborhood on their level of physical activity. One hundred and nineteen women aged 18-60 years completed measures of general health status, self-efficacy for exercise behaviors, neighborhood safety, perceived social norms of physical activity, psychological sense of community, and various types of activity: walking, moderate, strenuous and vigorous physical activity. The results indicated that women reported engaging in higher levels of physical activity than prior research had indicated. Self-Efficacy was the strongest intrapersonal predictor of physical activity. Hence, women who felt confident that they could engage in physical activity were more likely to engage in the activity than those women who were less confident. There was limited support that contextual variables would predict physical activity. Further research should assess the mechanisms by which intrapersonal and contextual variables impact physical activity among African American women.