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Open Access Research

Development of an ecologically valid approach to assess moderate physical activity using accelerometry in community dwelling women of color: A cross-sectional study

Charles S Layne1*, Scherezade K Mama1, Jorge A Banda2 and Rebecca E Lee1

  • * Corresponding author: Charles S Layne clayne2@uh.edu

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Texas Obesity Research Center, Department of Health and Human Performance, University of Houston, 3855 Holman Street, 104 Garrison Gym, Houston, TX 77204-6015, USA

2 Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:21  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-21

Published: 25 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Women of color report the lowest levels of physical activity and highest rates of overweight and obesity in the US. The purpose of this study was to develop an individualized, ecologically valid, field based method to assess physical activity over seven days for community dwelling women of color using accelerometers.

Methods

Accelerometer-measured physical activity, Borg perceived exertion, demographics, blood pressure, heart rate, and anthropometric measures were collected from African American and Hispanic or Latina women (N = 209). A threshold for increased physical activity was determined for each participant by calculating the average count per minute (plus one standard deviation) for each participant collected during a self-selected pace that corresponded to a 'recreational' walk about their neighborhood. The threshold was then used to calculate the amount of time spent doing increased intensity physical activity during a typical week.

Results

Women were middle-aged and obese (M BMI = 34.3 ± 9.3). The average individual activity counts per day ranged from 482-1368 in African American women and 470-1302 in Hispanic or Latina women. On average, African American women spent significantly more time doing what was labeled 'increased' physical activity than Hispanic and Latino women. However neither group approached recommended physical activity levels, as African American women, averaged 1.73% and Hispanic and Latino women averaged 0.83% of their day engaged in increased physical activity (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

This study presents a simple field-based method for developing accelerometer thresholds that identify personalized thresholds of moderate intensity physical activity that can be used by in community-based settings. Findings highlight a need for physical activity programs whose starting points are based upon the individual's typical baseline physical activity level, which is likely to be well below the minimum recommended published guidelines.