Background: Physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, yet little is known concerning factors which influence participation in physical activity or exercise. Two studies assessed the relationships between self-reported physical activity and social support for exercise.
Method: One study involved a biracial sample of middle-class male and female teachers (mean age = 38.5 +/- 8.9 years) and one involved a biracial sample of lower- to middle-class males and females (mean age = 35.8 +/- 5.1 years).
Results: In both studies the social support scales had high internal consistencies and a two-component solution identical to the original validation study. In both studies, social support for exercise positively correlated with physical activity, but the relationships were mediated by race, gender, specific types of support (i.e., family, friend), and dimensions of physical activity (i.e., global, work, sports, and leisure). In both studies, regardless of work status and race, women's overall activity, particularly during leisure time, was positively related to family support for exercise. In both studies white women's overall activity levels, especially sports and leisure activities, were positively related to friend support. In both studies, black women's sports activity was positively associated with family support. Among white men in both studies, sports activities and total energy expenditure were positively related to family and friend support. Black men's sports-related activity was positively related to family support among the teachers and to friend support among subjects in the second study.
Conclusion: Findings are discussed in terms of future research directed toward identification of other familial and sociocultural variables which might influence individuals' involvement in physical activity.