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Judith Lomax, Carolyn M. Barry, Ph.D.

Physical Activity and Self-Esteem: A Program Analysis of Back on My Feet

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Homelessness continues to affect large numbers of men by placing them in an array of risks, resulting in poor physical health and self-esteem (Fazel et al., 2014; Parker, 2012). Due to the toll that homelessness takes on men and the benefits of self-esteem and group membership on mental and physical health (e.g., Shelton et al., 2015), as well as the benefits of physical activity to physical health and self-esteem (e.g., Kenney et al., 2015), interventions for the homeless that incorporate physical activity are worth investigating. The proposed study evaluates the effectiveness of Back on My Feet (BoMF), a national, for-purpose 501(c)3 organization established on March 1st, 2011, that affords opportunities for homeless adult men (who are substance free for 30 days prior to beginning the program) to engage in an innovative group running program (3x/week for 1-5 miles in early morning) to ascertain the extent to which these individuals’ self-esteem improves as they become part of this team approach to physical involvement. Running as a team provides numerous opportunities to build self-efficacy (Kim & Park, 2014) as the individual makes improvements and accomplishments, as well as when the team makes improvements and accomplishments through shared identity. As they progress in the program, members can gain access to financial, housing, and employment resources to achieve stable housing and employment. The present study will explore the relationship between physical involvement in the program and the changes in homeless men’s self-esteem over their time in the program.

Participants consist of 50 recently-graduated BoMF D.C. program members who are at least 18-years-old. They were recruited to join the program through personal contact with existing members or by BoMF staff who presented at nearby shelters. While participating in the program, BoMF tracks their members’ attendance, total mileage of running, and race participation. For the proposed analyses, three variables will be created for physical involvement. To create the first variable, raw numbers will be summed to yield scores for the individual mileage per first and last month in the program for each member (individual physical involvement score), as well as team mileage, for that individual member per first and last month (team physical involvement score). Then two difference scores will be computed: (a) individual mileage-T2 - individual mileage-T1, (b) team mileage-T2 - team mileage-T1. Then an average of the difference score for the individual and their respective team mileage will be computed to yield a composite score for individual physical involvement, which will be used in the analyses. In addition, BoMF members completed the Rosenberg (1989) 10-item self-esteem scale monthly. The ten-items are averaged to yield a composite, but only the composites for each member’s first and last month in the program will be used.

Controlling for months in program and self-esteem-T1, partial correlations will be run on (a) individual physical involvement and self-esteem-T2; (b) individual physical involvement-T2 and team physical involvement-T2; and (c) individual physical involvement-T2 and self-esteem-T2. A repeated-measures ANCOVA on self-esteem (within-subjects factor: 2 levels of time; covariate of months in program) will be run.

Statement of Hypotheses

  1. It is hypothesized that, after controlling for time in the program and self-esteem at Time 1 (program start date for each individual), greater physical involvement in program (as operationalized by a composite of average difference scores for individual mileage and team mileage, total number of races completed by the individual, and total number of race miles completed by individual) will be associated with greater levels of self-esteem in the final month of the program, Time 2.

  2. After controlling for time in the program, it is hypothesized that, self-esteem at Time 2 will be higher than self-esteem at Time 1.

  3.  After controlling for time in the program, it is hypothesized that individual physical involvement at Time 2 will be positively associated with team physical involvement at Time 2.

  4. After controlling for time in the program, it is hypothesized that self-esteem at Time 2 will be positively associated with individual physical involvement at Time 2.


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