While awareness of the health benefits of physical activity has increased, participation rates have not. Most people do not reach the nationally recommended guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Older adults are the least active group. Minority groups also fall short, possibly because public health messages and interventions are less effective. Dr. Andiara Schwingel of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health leads a team of scholars in investigating how Latina women aged 65 and older make physical activity decisions. Hers is the first study to use accelerometers and photo elicitation to explore factors that shape perceptions, attitudes, values, and behaviors regarding physical activity. She has identified a significant difference between older Latina women in rural areas, who average less than 40 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, and those in urban areas, who achieved between 100 and 120 minutes. Preliminary analysis of qualitative data indicates that the women’s strong faith and family responsibilities play a major role in their lives, and may act as both barriers to and facilitators of healthy and active lifestyles.
Dr. Andiara Schwingel