Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 1475–1487 | Cite as

Influence of individual and social contextual factors on changes in leisure-time physical activity in working-class populations: results of the Healthy Directions–Small Businesses Study

  • Lorna H. McNeillEmail author
  • Anne Stoddard
  • Gary G. Bennett
  • Kathleen Y. Wolin
  • Glorian G. Sorensen
Original paper



As part of the Harvard Cancer Prevention Program Project, we sought to address disparities reflected in social class and race/ethnicity by developing and testing a behavioral intervention model that targeted fruit and vegetable consumption, red meat consumption, multivitamin intake, and physical activity in working-class, multiethnic populations.


This paper examined the associations between change in leisure-time physical activity and individual and social contextual factors in participants employed in small businesses (n = 850) at both baseline and at 18-month final.


In bivariate analyses, age, language acculturation, social ties, and workplace social capital were significantly associated with physical activity at final. In multivariable analyses, being younger and having high language acculturation were significantly associated with greater leisure-time physical activity at final; high workplace social capital was significantly associated with a decline in physical activity at final.


These findings have implications for understanding factors that are integral to promoting change in physical activity among working-class, multiethnic populations.


Health disparities Multivitamin Nutrition Physical activity Race/ethnicity Social context 



This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant 5 POl CA75308) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by Liberty Mutual, National Grid, and the Patterson Fellowship Fund. The authors thank the numerous investigators and staff members who contributed to this study, including Jennifer Dacey Allen, Elizabeth Alvarez, Jamie Baron, Joyce Gheatham, Tracy Liwen Ghen, Graham Golditz, Karen Ertel, Martha Fay, Robert Fletcher, Gaitlin Gutheil, Elizabeth Gonzalez Suarez, Elizabeth Harden, Laura Jay, Ichiro Kawachi, Kerry Kokkinogenis, Nancy Krieger, Karen Kuntz, Ruth Lederman, Nancy Lightman, Simone Pinheiro, Kathleen Scafidi, Tatyana Pinchuk, George Moseley, Lorraine Wallace, Jane Weeks, Milton Weinstein, and Richard Youngstrom. In addition, this work could not have been completed without the participation of 26 small manufacturing businesses and employees participating in the Healthy Directions–Small Business Study and the participation of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and members in the Healthy Directions–Health Centers Study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorna H. McNeill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anne Stoddard
    • 2
  • Gary G. Bennett
    • 3
  • Kathleen Y. Wolin
    • 4
  • Glorian G. Sorensen
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Health Disparities Research, Unit 125M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, The University of TexasHoustonUSA
  2. 2.New England Research InstitutesWatertownUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Department of SurgeryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  5. 5.Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Center for Community-Based ResearchBostonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Society, Human Development and HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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