Term of Award

Summer 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

Committee Chair

Stuart H. Tedders

Committee Member 1

Moya Alfonso

Committee Member 2

Robert Vogel

Abstract

Despite multiple health benefits of exercise, it is reported that only 14.7% of American women engage in the recommended amount of physical activity. Whereas the potential negative consequences of not exercising are well documented, there is a scarcity of literature that investigates the determinants of physical activity in rural women. The purpose of this concurrent transformative mixed method study was to explore the determinants of physical activity in rural women ages 20-44 years. Specific quantitative research questions addressed the relationship between the determinants of physical activity on intra- and interpersonal levels, as well as the current physical activity status of respondents. Strength training was the focus of qualitative research. In-depth interviews were utilized to identify the perceptions, knowledge, motivation, and skills regarding strength training. The study was guided by Self-Determination Theory.

The quantitative portion of this research utilized a survey to collect data on a cluster sample of 184 women 20-44 years of age who resided in four rural counties in Georgia: Clinch, Toombs, Jeff Davis, and Pulaski. The qualitative portion of this research utilized in-depth interviews with 15 women from the four target counties.

The majority of the participants reported moderate physical activity levels; however, a significant percentage of rural women remain inactive. The results indicated that the highest type of motivation for physical activity among rural women was identified regulation. Moreover, husband’s support seems to have a stronger effect on physical activity levels when compared to other sources of social support. The results of this study also suggest that a history of sports participation can lead to the formation of intrinsic motivation. Factors such as the lack of knowledge about strength training and the lack of skills can possibly explain some of the reasons for low strength training participation among rural women in Georgia.

Due to the fact that rural areas are deprived of economic and financial resources, it is especially important for health care providers to use these findings to better understand the intra- and interpersonal determinants of physical activity in rural women in order to develop the most effective physical activity interventions.

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