Physical activity among black south african high school girls

Por: Julie Phillips.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Sedentary behavior has been recognized as a major public health problem. A physically inactive lifestyle places individuals at risk for premature decline in health plus early onset and progression of chronic illnesses. Low levels of physical activity are reported in many subgroups of women including adolescent girls. Before effective health-promotive strategies can be developed for black adolescent girls, studies are needed to better understand factors related to their participation in physical activity.


A qualitative approach was used to identify themes related to physical activity participation among black South African adolescent girls. Focus groups, a qualitative method, is the explicit use of group interaction to produce information and insight less accessible with conventional methods of gathering such as questionnaires. Trained facilitators conducted five focus groups with 55 adolescent girls.


The mean age of the girls was 15.8 years (ranged between 15 and 18 years). All girls were fully capable of participating in physical activity. Each session was recorded on audiotape, and then transcribed verbatim. Themes were identified from each focus group. Six consistent themes emerged. These included personal safety, financial constraints, competing responsibilities, physical education classes, self-image and parental support.


Research on young women of color or young women from marginalized communities must not be seen as simply filling a gap, rather as contributing new perspectives that can enhance our understanding of healthy child and youth development. Opportunities to be physically active in an enjoyable and comfortable environment are undoubtedly essential for all girls. Therefore culturally sensitive and gender-appropriate activity interventions are more likely to effectively engage and sustain participation in physical activity. A commitment to improving the health habits of youth is an important investment in the short and long term status of our communities.



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