Body image and physical activity among Latina and African American women

Scherezade K. Mama, Beth E. Quill, Maria E. Fernandez-Esquer, Jacqueline Y. Reese-Smith, Jorge A. Banda, Rebecca E. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objectives:Obesity in African American (AA) and Hispanic or Latina (HL) women has been partly attributed to low physical activity (PA) and cultural influences on body image. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship among body mass index (BMI=kg/m2), body image perception (perceived and desired) and PA. Design: The current study is a cross-sectional, secondary data analysis of the Health Is Power (HIP) project (1R01CA109403). Setting: Women residing in Harris County, Houston and Travis County, Austin, Texas were recruited to participate in the study. Participants: Over four hundred (N=410) AA (N=262) and HL (N=148) women participated in the HIP project and were included in the current study. Main Outcome Measures: BMI, Pulvers' body image, PA and demographic data were collected from each participant. Results: Women (mean age=45.2 yrs) were educated (44% college graduates) and obese (mean BMI=34.6 kg/m2). Less than half perceived themselves correctly regardless of actual weight and ethnicity (P<.001). Nearly three-fourths of AA (73.9%) and less than half of HL (42.9%) women who were normal weight desired to be obese, and only 39.4% of AA and HL women desired to be normal weight. Women varied on measures of PA (P<.05). Regression analyses showed objectively measured PA was significantly associated with BMI and ethnicity (P<.01). Conclusions: Results reveal dichotomous distortion in body images. Women need strategies to perceive normal weight as desirable for health and beauty, leading to increased PA and reducing obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology


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