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Influences of Perceived Environment, Partner Support, and Attitudinal Familism on Physical Activity among Mexican American Women

  • Author(s): Congello, Neomie Ceta
  • Advisor(s): Koniak-Griffin, Deborah
  • et al.

Healthy lifestyle behaviors such as engaging in physical activity (PA) may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the number one cause of mortality among Mexican American women (MAW). Research findings show that MAW have low levels of leisure time PA and vary in the amount of overall PA. The influence of partner support has received little attention in studies examining predictors of PA. This cross sectional study investigated factors influencing PA among MAW aged 19 to 64 years old (mean = 39.4, SD = 11.1) who may be at increased risk for CVD based on hypertension, diabetes and obesity rates reported for the general population of Latinos. The study was guided by an ecological framework with variables identified at the community (the physical environment), interpersonal (family, friends and partner support, attitudinal familism, and intrapersonal levels (age, employment status, acculturation, body mass index [BMI], number of chronic health conditions). The sample recruited from Southern California included 112 self-identified MAW, predominantly born in Mexico (n = 98, 88 %) and overweight/obese, who had low income and lived with their partner. An instrument packet was administered via individual interviews to facilitate understanding of questions among women with varying educational backgrounds and ability to read and write. The following self-report measures were administered in either Spanish or English: The Short International Physical Activity Questionnaire, the Abbreviated Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale, an adapted Social Support and Exercise Survey, the Attitudinal Familism Scale, a demographic questionnaire and the General Acculturation Index. Although perceived PA ranged widely from low to high, a surprisingly large number of women (77.5%) reported moderate to high levels. Results of Pearson product-moment correlations showed that higher partner support, residential density, and acculturation and lower neighborhood crime were significantly associated with higher levels of PA. Acculturation and partner support were found to be significant predictors of PA in the multiple regression analyses. These findings suggest that future PA studies examining influences on PA and those testing PA intervention programs for MAW should address partner support and acculturation factors. Clinicians are encouraged to assess facilitators and barriers to PA in counseling MAW.

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