Still Out There Doing It: A Phenomenological Study of Motivations Among Female African American Teens In an After-School Physical Fitness Program
ABSTRACT Female African American high school students are far more likely to be overweight or obese when compared to their White and Hispanic counterparts. Overweight and obesity rates among high school students were recently calculated at 14.6% and 9.1% for White females, 20.0% and 13.3% for Hispanic females, and 21.2% and 15.2% for Black females (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The rate stood at over 36% for African American females, placing them at high risk for negative health outcomes associated with overweight and obesity. Additionally, sedentary students miss out on the cognitive benefits associated with regular exercise. Girls show a clear decline in physical activity beginning in adolescence (Dwyer et al., 2006), and the decline in activity and rise in inactivity was shown to vary across race. Physical education is required by most states in the U.S., and its purpose is generally held to be to promote life-long access to healthy activity. This phenomenological study examines the experiences of eight female African American adolescents who self-enrolled in a voluntary after-school fitness program. It investigates their reasons for enrolling, the benefits they perceived, facilitators for participation, and the barriers participants perceived. Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT) is the theoretical framework by which this study is framed. Differences in the quality of motivation appear to have had a significant influence on program completion. The degree of autonomy with which the young women made the decision to enroll in the program had implications for their expectations, goals, and program completion. From an SDT perspective, behavior change for exercise adherence in youth depends in great part on accepting the behavior regulation as one’s own, and external and internal influences may shift the locus of motivation. Further research involving non-athletic participants in exercise adherence is indicated as is the examination of strategies to build supportive classroom environments and social support for activity in the physical education setting.
Murphy, Carolyn Couture