Factors that Impact African American Girls' Participation in Health-Promoting Leisure Activities

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Research has noted that African American girls tend to engage in less physical activity than children in other racial groups, and this sedentary behavior can have negative health outcomes (e.g., higher rates of type 2 diabetes and elevated blood pressure; Eaton et al., 2011). Increased participation in physically active leisure can improve the health and well-being of children, specifically African American girls. Leisure service agencies can play a role in promoting healthy behaviors, such as including increased levels of physical activity, by providing opportunities and spaces for African American girls to participate in various activities. The purpose of this study was to understand the recreation interests of African American girls by specifically examining what attributes they feel are important to health-promoting leisure activities and also to examine factors that may promote their long-term engagement in healthy activities. Interviews with 18 African American girls between ages 7 and 13 were conducted at two leisure service agencies, a park district and a Boys and Girls Club in a Midwestern town. The results of the study indicate that African American girls would like opportunities to learn about health and strategies for engaging in health-promoting behaviors. The girls also mentioned program attributes that would encourage them to be more active and retain their participation in healthy activities such as opportunities to socialize with friends, freedom to be creative, involvement in the program development process, and opportunities to express their femininity through leisure. Leisure service agencies can use this information to increase opportunities for African American girls to be active and provide various leisure opportunities for them to meet their health-related desires. It is hoped the information provided in this study can increase physical activity rates and promote healthy behaviors of African American girls. Thus, this study is important to researchers and practitioners as they actively seek ways to improve the health and well-being of youth and provide leisure opportunities that meet the specific desires of African American girls. However, future research is needed to better understand the roles of leisure service providers in encouraging and promoting healthy behaviors.


Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services

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Journal of Park and Recreation Administration