Positive Outliers Among African American Women and the Factors Associated with Long-Term Physical Activity Maintenance

  • Amber W. KinseyEmail author
  • Michelle L. Segar
  • Daheia J. Barr-Anderson
  • Melicia C. Whitt-Glover
  • Olivia Affuso


Studying positive outliers, individuals who have achieved success with long-term (> 6-month) physical activity (PA) engagement, may be an important approach for understanding strategies for improving leisure-time PA maintenance among African American (AA) women. This cross-sectional, mixed-methods study (1) examined the personal characteristics, PA patterns, and behavioral practices of positive outliers among AA women and (2) compared characteristics of those who maintain PA at recommended levels (HIGH, ≥ 150 min/week > 6 months) with those who maintain low PA volumes (LOW, < 150 min/week > 6 months). A large sample of positive outliers completed this study (n = 290), and most became physically active on their own (76.2%). These AA women were committed to maintaining an active lifestyle, accumulated 249.7 ± 105.8 min of PA/week, and engaged in a variety of activities. Their behavioral practices included scheduling PA during the week (85.9%), goal-setting (82.4%), engaging in PA with others (55.9%), self-monitoring (78.3%), and having a backup plan for missed sessions (54.8%). HIGH maintainers (84.9%) made up most of the sample, and these women were characteristically similar to LOW maintainers with few differences. HIGH maintainers have been active longer, achieved higher commitment scores, and engaged in PA at a higher frequency, duration, and intensity, resulting in higher weekly PA volume compared to LOW maintainers (273.8 ± 96.1 vs. 114.4 ± 24.3 min per week, p ≤ 0.001). Our findings identify factors that may be important for successful PA maintenance among AA women and may help to inform the development of effective behavioral interventions to promote sustained, long-term PA engagement in this population.


Positive deviance Exercise Health disparities Coping planning Black women 


Funding Information

AWK was supported by T32DK062710 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases or the National Institutes of Health.

Ethical Approval and Consent

This study was approved by the participating University’s Institutional Review Board, and all eligible participants provided informed consent. All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

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40615_2018_559_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (253 kb)
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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nutrition Obesity Research CenterUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy CenterUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.School of KinesiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Gramercy Research GroupWinston-SalemUSA
  5. 5.Winston-Salem State UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  6. 6.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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