Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Research Advisor

Mona N. Wicks, Ph.D.


Patricia A. Cowan, Ph.D. Joyce Carolyn Graff, Ph.D. Donna S. Husch, Ph.D. Denise D. McAdory, Ph.D.


African American, Body Image, Physical Activity, Religiosity, Self-efficacy, Women


Background: Inadequate physical activity behavior persists among African American women despite the widely documented benefits of physical activity. Literature notes a positive correlation between self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior. In addition to socioeconomic factors, culturally influenced factors mediate self-efficacy for task such as physical activity. Past studies indicate differing perceptions related to religiosity and body image among African American populations. Additionally, reports indicate Southern and Midwestern states have the highest prevalence of obesity. These states are located in a geographical area known as the Bible belt. Moreover, 73.5% of the African American population in the U. S. resides in Bible belt states. Obesity is more prevalent among African American women when compared to other populations. The purposes of this study were to examine the relationships among self-efficacy for exercise, religiosity, body image perception, body mass index, socioeconomic factors (i.e., level of education, monthly income, church attendance, residency [i.e., rural or urban], age, parental responsibility [i.e., caring for children under age 16], number of children, occupation and marital status), and physical activity behavior, to examine differences in the level of the aforementioned variables among that attend church frequently to those that attend church infrequently, and lastly to explicate the predictors of self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior among this sample of African American women.

Methods: This cross-sectional, descriptive, comparative study was used to explore physical activity behavior among African American women. Participants were recruited from a large African Methodist Episcopal church and through word of mouth by women that had completed the study in a Southern city. Participants’ self-efficacy for exercise, religiosity, body image perceptions, socioeconomic factors and physical activity behavior were assessed with the following paper and pencil self-report instruments respectively: Physical Exercise Self-efficacy Scale, A Standardized Demographic Data Collection Form, God Locus of Health Control, Appearance Schema Inventory – Revised, and the Stanford Brief Activity Survey. Height and weight information was used to calculate body mass index for each participant. Participants were categorized into groups based on church attendance and physical activity behavior. Participants reported the number of Sunday’s they attended church per month on the demographic data collection form and were categorized into the following groups: frequent church attendance (at least 3 times out of the month) and infrequent church attendance (less than 3 times out of the month). The Stanford Brief Activity Survey was used to categorize participants into the following groups inactive (scores ranged from 1-2) and active (scores ranged from 3-5). Descriptive statistics were used to summarize sample characteristics, bivariate correlation analysis was used to examine variable relationships, independent sample t-test and chi-square test were used to examine group differences, and multiple regression analysis was used to determine the predictors of self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior in this sample of African American women.

Results: The final sample included 100 African American women. The mean monthly income was $2,242. On average participants attended church frequently, had completed high school or attended college, were not married, and had children. Most of the sample was obese (67%), employed (75%), resided within the city limits (74%), and had at least one child under the age of 16 (56%). Additionally, 61 participants (61%) reported having occupations that required activity that approximated light intensity physical activity. Many significant relationships were noted among the study variables. Significant relationships were noted between self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior, parental responsibility, body mass index and church attendance. Physical activity behavior was significantly associated with education and type of occupation. Religiosity was significantly associated with education. Body mass index was associated with body image perception and education. Groups reported similar levels of religiosity and self-efficacy for exercise. However, women that attended church frequently tended to be younger than those who attended infrequently. Women residing in rural areas reported slightly higher scores on the GLHC indicating extrinsic religiosity. Self-efficacy for exercise predicted physical activity behavior in this sample of African American women. Additionally, the presence of minor children, marital status, and body mass index predicted self-efficacy for exercise.

Conclusion: The findings of this study illuminated significant positive associations between self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior in African American women. Based on the findings of this study, future interventions designed to over come modifiable perceived barriers to physical activity such as having minor children could enhance self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior among African American women. Moreover, further exploration of the influence that being married or partner has on self-efficacy for exercise would be helpful in understanding physical activity behavior among women among this group. Information related to the predictors of self-efficacy for exercise and physical activity behavior will assist researchers plan more tailored culturally relevant health promotion interventions for this population.