What walking means to moms: Insights from a national sample to frame walking in compelling ways to low-income urban mothers

Michelle L. Segar, Katie M. Heinrich, Susan G. Zieff, Rodney Lyn, Jeanette Gustat, Nancy O׳Hara Tompkins, Cynthia K. Perry, M. Renée Umstattd Meyer, Daniel Bornstein, Alicia Manteiga, Amy A. Eyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Population-wide initiatives aim to educate individuals about the benefits of walking, such as Step It Up! (United States), Walking for Health (England), and Canada Walks (Canada). Low-income women are a strategic group to target for walking communications because lower-income individuals and women have lower rates of physical activity than the general population and men. For messages to motivate mothers to walk, however, they need to frame walking in ways that makes walking sufficiently relevant and compelling. We investigated what walking means to low-income urban mothers as a first step toward identifying more compelling and motivating ways to frame and communicate about walking to them. Focus groups were conducted across seven different urban areas in the United States among low-income urban mothers (n=52) and transcribed. Grounded theory was used to code and analyze the data. This study identified salient beliefs, barriers, and life concerns that should be addressed when framing and branding walking to low-income urban mothers. Communications emphasizing dose-based recommendations (e.g., time, intensity) are irrelevant to mothers’ lives and also appear to be confusing as well as ineffective motivators. While some participants desired experiential benefits from walking, such as time with family, others sought instrumental benefits, such as losing weight. Regardless of the benefits desired, however, there was a general consensus that walking was a low daily priority. Thus, for messages to successfully promote walking, they need to imbue walking with a compelling meaning that makes walking relevant to mothers in ways that can help them achieve their daily needs and wants. In addition, future communications should address the potentially negative meanings and stress low-income mothers experience when walking is a compulsory form of transportation. These data offer insights into preliminary suggestions for framing walking to boost its daily relevance, desirability, and usefulness to low-income urban mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Branding
  • Communication
  • Framing
  • Mothers motivation
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Transportation
  • Pollution
  • Safety Research
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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