Patterns of physical activity among American Indian children: An assessment of barriers and support

Janice L. Thompson, Sally M. Davis, Joel Gittelsohn, Scott Going, Alberta Becenti, Lauve Metcalfe, Elaine Stone, Lisa Harnack, Kim Ring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Estimates indicate that 10% to 50% of American Indian and non-Indian children in the U.S. are obese, defined as a body mass index ≥ 95th percentile of the NHANES II reference data. Pathways is a two-phase, multi-site study to develop and test a school-based obesity prevention program in American Indian schoolchildren in grades three through five. During Phase I feasibility prior to initiation of the Pathways trial, data were collected related to physical activity patterns, and the supports of, and barriers to, physical activity. Nine schools from communities representing six different tribal groups participated in this study. Multiple measures were used for data collection including direct observation, paired child interviews, and in-depth interviews and focus groups with adults. Students completed the self-administered Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors (KAB) survey, and a Physical Activity Questionnaire (PAQ). Barriers to physical activity at schools included a lack of facilities, equipment, and trained staff persons for PE. Adults were not consistently active with their children, but they were highly supportive of their children's activity level. Children reported a strong enjoyment of physical activity and strong peer support to be physically active. Weather conditions, safety concerns, and homework/chores were common barriers to physical activity reported by children and adult caregivers. The informa tion was used to design culturally and age-appropriate, practical interventions including the five physical activity programs for schoolchildren in the Pathways study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-445
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • American Indian
  • Formative assessment
  • Obesity prevention
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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