Motivations for exercise and weight loss among African-American women: Focus group results and their contribution towards program development

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76 Scopus citations


Objective. African-American women are more likely to be sedentary and maintain higher body weights compared with Caucasian women, although some are physically active and able to maintain weight loss. To develop effective intervention strategies, we need to understand why some women are successful. Design. We conducted focus groups on four distinct groups of African-American women (currently physically active; currently sedentary; successful weight loss for ≥1 year; unsuccessful weight loss) to explore motivations and intervention strategies. Open-ended questions, probes, and visual aids were used to stimulate discussions. Transcripts of sessions were read to highlight themes and concepts. Results. Results indicated that motivators for the exercisers to start exercising were health concerns, weight control, stress reduction, and the influence of others. Motivators to continue exercising were feeling good and having energy. In contrast, the sedentary women reported that social support and enjoyment would be motivating. Both groups reported that physically active women conveyed the image of high energy and self-esteem. The successful weight loss women employed strategies that allowed them to eat a variety of foods and were less likely to 'diet'. The unsuccessful women referred to 'going on a diet' and were more likely to label foods as 'good' or 'bad'. They reported feeling tired and thought that losing weight would give them more energy. Conclusion. This information was used to develop two culturally appropriate interventions for African-American women, which is presented. Conducting formative research in study design protocols can provide an important role in intervention development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-245
Number of pages19
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2001


  • African-Americans
  • Behavior maintenance
  • Physical activity
  • Qualitative studies
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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