Benefits and barriers to physical activity among African women: A systematic review

Obit et al, Sports Medicine and Health Sciences, 5 (2023), 59-66.

Black women have always been likened to being a less physically active group compared to women of other races/ ethnicity, with reports of a high prevalence of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases among them. The purpose of this study is to examine the health benefits of physical activity on women of color, as well as barriers that inhibit their participation.

We searched PubMed and Web of Science databases for relevant research articles. Included articles were: Published in the English Language from 2011 to February 2022; conducted predominantly on black women, African women, or African American women. Articles were identified, screened, and data extracted following the Preferred Reporting Item for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines.

The electronic search produced 2 043 articles, and 33 articles were reviewed after meeting the inclusion criteria. 13 articles focused on the benefits of physical activity while 20 articles addressed the barriers to physical activity. It was found that physical activity has various benefits for black women participants but they are being hindered from participation by some factors. These factors were grouped into four themes, namely Individual/ Intrapersonal barriers, Socio-economic barriers, Social barriers, and Environmental barriers.

Various studies have examined the benefits and barriers of physical activity among women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but there have been very few studies of African women, with the majority focusing on one geographical area. In addition to exploring these benefits and barriers, this review offers recommendations on the areas researchers should focus on to promote physical activity in this population.