Motives and Barriers for Physical Activity among Low-Income Black Single Mothers

Deirdre Dlugonski, Tiesha R. Martin, Emily L. Mailey, Emily Pineda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Physical activity is associated with positive health outcomes, yet previous evidence suggests that single mothers, Black women, and those with low-income levels have low rates of physical activity. The purpose of the present study was to examine health status, as well as barriers and motives for physical activity, among low-income, Black single mothers from an intersectionality framework. Participants (n = 32) in this cross-sectional, mixed methods study completed questionnaires to assess physical activity, health status, stress, and barriers to physical activity and then participated in one of six focus groups to explore physical activity motives and barriers. Although participants reported many risk factors for disease including obesity, stress, and family disease history, most participants were not engaging in behaviors that would improve health such as regular leisure-time physical activity. Participants cited being a role model, stress relief, and weight loss as motives for physical activity that were connected to their social identities as low-income, Black single mothers. Chronic stress and stressors, responsibilities associated with single motherhood, and lack of social and community supports were described as barriers to physical activity. Future researchers and practitioners should consider these specific motives and barriers when designing interventions to increase physical activity among low-income, Black single mothers. We recommend that these programs focus on: promoting motives for physical activity that are meaningful and specific to this subpopulation of mothers, reducing stress, and enhancing affordable physical activity opportunities in the community for single mothers and their children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-392
Number of pages14
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Focus groups
  • Health behaviors
  • Health disparities
  • Intersectionality
  • Social identity
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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