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Exploring the Physical Activity Behavior of Adolescent Girls

Project Full Title:

Exploring the Physical Activity Behavior of Adolescent Girls: A Mixed-Methods Study

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Project Description:

Worldwide, over three million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity (1). Physical inactivity has also contributed to increases in obesity rates among adolescents resulting in a dramatic rise in hypertension, dyslipidemia, and pre-clinical atherosclerosis in this population (2). Despite well-established health benefits of physical activity, (3) including a decreased risk for the development of cardiac disease and diabetes, (4,5,6) the majority of adolescents do not meet guidelines recommending 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day (7,8,9). Adolescent girls in particular engage in less physical activity than boys, a difference that increases with age (10). By the 9th grade, only 20% of girls report meeting recommendations for physical activity with lower percentages for black and Hispanic girls compared to white girls (11). Furthermore, the percentage of adolescent girls meeting physical activity guidelines measured with accelerometers has been reported to be as low as 3% (12). Intervention efforts are urgently needed to reverse these disconcerting trends that are linked to an increasing chronic disease burden worldwide (13). Systematic reviews examining the effects of physical activity interventions for adolescent girls have reported some intervention success for improving physical activity including increases in MVPA (14). However, a major limitation consistent across these reviews is that studies employing objective outcome measures of physical activity tend not to confirm the effectiveness of physical activity interventions (14). These findings correspond closely to reviews examining PA interventions for children and adolescents that report lack of significant increases in objectively-measured physical activity (15). Therefore, a better understanding of the physical activity behavior of adolescent girls is needed to inform future intervention work. The purpose of this project is to explore the physical activity behavior and needs of adolescent girls using both a qualitative and quantitative research approach. Focus groups using semi-structured interviews with adolescent girls will be conducted to gather qualitative data. Girls will also be given a Fitbit activity tracker to wear for one week to gather quantitative data related to their physical activity. The information from this project will be used to design a physical activity intervention for adolescent girls to be used in a future research study. Specific Aims: Aim 1: Assess the physical activity behavior of adolescent girls through quantitative and qualitative measures. Aim 2: Assess the facilitators of and barriers to physical activity among adolescent girls. Aim 3: Assess the physical activity needs of adolescent girls. Aim 4: Assess acceptability and feasibility of the Fitbit activity tracker for use with adolescent girls.

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