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Grantee: Erika Rees-Punia, PhD, MPH
Institution: American Cancer Society
Area of Focus: Population Science
“Most population studies that examine risk factors for developing cancer, like physical inactivity, only allow participants to select from very broad racial/ethnicity categories, largely ‘Black, white, and other.’ But there’s so much diversity in each of these categories – especially ‘other’ – that needs to be identified and studied.
“With CPS-3, we allow participants to select from more specific racial/ethnic groups. By doing so, we found some disparities in physical activity related to participants’ race and birthplace. Other scientists can use our results to identify demographic groups for future research to explore group-specific barriers and facilitators of physical activity and to create culturally tailored messaging, programs, and policy work.” — Erika Rees-Punia, PhD, MPH
The Challenge: Many adults in the United States do not meet the recommended minimum amount of time being moderately to vigorously physically active.
According to national data, how common inactivity is may differ by race and ethnicity. For instance, survey results have shown that more Latinos (32%) reported not spending any time being moderately to vigorously physically active than Black Americans (30%) and White Americans (23%).
It’s important to understand racial/ethnic differences in physical activity because certain populations develop diseases that are related to physical inactivity more often than others. Specifically, compared with White Americans, more Asian/Pacific Islander (API), Black, Indigenous, and Latino Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and type II diabetes—all of which are related to not being physically active enough.
In the past, research surveys that looked at racial differences in exercise have often only asked one question about physical activity and didn’t ask about the time spent sitting (being sedentary). They also used broad classifications for race, like “Black,” “White,” “Hispanic,” and “Other.”
That’s left gaps in identifying potential distinct differences in physical activity based on race and ethnicity.
ACS Guidelines for Diet & Physical Activity to Help Prevent Cancer recommend that each week adults be physically active at a:
Such differences may be better understood if they were studied along with information about the country where a person was born (nativity), current geographic region, and sex.
The Research: Population Science researcher, Erika Rees-Punia, PhD, MPH, used data from the ACS Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) to fill some of these research gaps. The CPS-3 cohort includes over 303,000 adults across the US and Puerto Rico who represent diverse races and ethnicities and who have not been diagnosed with cancer. Study participants received 2 separate surveys about specific physical activities in their leisure time.
Rees-Punia and her fellow authors described their results in a published study. They found:
Physical activity by sex and age
Why It Matters: Results of this study can be used for future research that explores barriers and facilitators of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity during leisure time for specific demographic groups. Such work may identify groups who may benefit from culturally tailored physical activity behavioral interventions.