Article| Volume 19, ISSUE 2, P126-134, March 2009

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Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity According to Stage of Change and Body Mass Index in the West Virginia Wisewoman Population


      Low-income Appalachian women aged 40–64 years are an understudied population relative to physical activity barriers. To inform a cardiovascular risk factor intervention targeting this population through the West Virginia WISEWOMAN program, we determined at baseline participants' perceptions about the presence of 6 barriers to physical activity and respective differences according to stage of readiness for change (SOC).


      Low-income women aged 40–64 who had participated in a state cancer screening program were recruited through 13 clinics. Participants were interviewed at clinics using a health risk/behavioral survey that included questions about barriers to and SOC for physical activity. Weight, height, and waist circumference were measured.

      Principal Findings

      Baseline screening was completed by 733 women; 84% were overweight (body mass index [BMI] 25–29.9 [24.1%]) or obese (BMI ≥ 30 [59.8%]). The prevalence of barriers was greatest for lack of support (52.4%) and lack of willpower (50.8%); lack of time was reported by only 30.1%. On χ2 test, significant differences were revealed across SOC for time (p = .026), don't need more physical activity (p = .003), and willpower (p < 001); and for time (p = .006) and don't need more (p < .000) across BMI categories. Time increased from precontemplation (21.1%) to maintenance (35%). Obese participants reported time less frequently (25.7%) than participants of normal weight (40.2%).


      Lack of willpower and support—not time—seem to be the dominant physical activity barriers in the West Virginia WISEWOMAN population. Interventions targeting willpower in early SOC and in obese participants may be promising toward increasing physical activity.
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      James Rye, PhD, RD, is Professor in the college of Human Resources and Education at West Virginia University. He conducts research on problems that connect human and environmental health.


      Sheila Rye, MS, is Clinical Research Coordinator for the Department of Orthopaedics at West Virgina University. Formerly, she was Research Assistant for the West Virginia WISEWOMAN project in the West Virginia University Department of Nursing.


      Jay Coffindaffer, PhD, was a graduate research assistant for Community Health Initiatives while this research was being conducted. He is a graduate of the west Virginia University School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Systems & Policy.


      Irene Tessaro, MSN, DrPH, is Research Professor with the school of Nursing at West Virginia University. She designs, implements and evaluates health promotion interventions in clinical and community settings.