Aspen E. Streetman, Averie Brown and Katie M. Heinrich

Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Women are less likely than men to meet physical activity (PA) guidelines. More women report meeting the aerobic portion of the guidelines (51%, mainly walking and running) than the muscle-strengthening portion (<20%). Still, muscle-strengthening exercises like resistance training may be more empowering than aerobic exercise. Feeling empowered by exercise may increase exercise adherence and allow women to experience and benefit from exercise’s physical, mental and social health outcomes. PURPOSE: To explore how women rank feelings of empowerment by PA type; resistance training was hypothesized to be perceived as more empowering than aerobic activities. METHODS: Mid-western women (N = 175) aged 18-65, 90% white, completed an online cross-sectional survey. Basic demographic information and PA empowerment were collected. Participants entered up to five PA types in an open-ended question and then ranked them from one to five based on how much each type fostered feelings of empowerment. RESULTS: Of the 91 respondents who ranked PA, the top three activities ranked as the most empowering were resistance training (n = 34, 37.4%), followed by walking (n = 11, 12.1%) and running (n = 10, 11%). The top three PA types ranked as the second most empowering were resistance training (n = 12, 13.2%), walking (n = 12, 13.2%), and running (n = 9, 9.9%). The top three PA types ranked third most empowering were walking (n = 27, 29.7%), yoga (n = 10, 11%), and resistance training (n = 7, 9.7%). CONCLUSION: Women rank resistance training as more empowering than walking, running, and yoga. While it is beyond the scope of this research to elucidate the empowering mechanisms of resistance training, encouraging women to engage in resistance training may increase their feelings of empowerment by increasing their physical strength. Empowerment theory dictates that feeling empowered is related to feeling autonomous and in control. Exercise autonomy is related to exercise adherence; thus, encouraging resistance training among women may be an effective strategy to increase PA among this group.

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