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Peer-Reviewed Publications: Physical Activity

Rethinking physical activity communication: using focus groups to understand women’s goals, values, and beliefs to improve public health

Segar, M., Taber, J., Patrick, H., Thai, C., and Oh, A. BMC Public Health (May 2017).

In a new study funded internally by the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Michelle Segar and co-investigators analyzed what women say makes them feel happy and successful, and how their expectations and beliefs about exercise foster or undermine those things.

The findings, which  appear in the journal BMC Public Health, show that both active and inactive women report the same ingredients for feeling happy and successful, including connecting with others, relaxing and being free of pressures, and accomplishing goals. But the study also found that for inactive women, their beliefs and expectations about exercise actually thwarted the things that make them feel happy and successful. For example, inactive women believe “valid” exercise must be intense, yet they want to feel relaxed during their leisure time; they feel pressured to exercise for health or to lose weight, yet during their leisure time they want to be free of pressures; and, they believe that success comes from achieving goals, yet their expectations about how much, where and how they should be exercising means they can’t achieve these goals.

“There are important implications from this study on how we can help women better prioritize exercise in their day-to-day life,” Segar concludes. “We need to re-educate women that they can move in ways that will renew instead of exhaust them, and more effectively get the message across that any movement is better than nothing. To increase motivation to be physically active, we need to help women to want to exercise instead of feeling like they should do it.”

No Sweat: African American Adolescent Girls’ Opinions of Hairstyle Choices and Physical Activity

Woolford, S., Woolford-Hunt,C., Sami, A., Blake, N., Williams, D., BMC Obesity (July 2016).

Are lower levels of physical activity among African-American teens related to hair care?

This recently-published small study included 36 African-American girls ages 14 to 17 in three states. The authors found a consistent theme among participants: Adolescent girls preferred straightened hair, which was viewed as the most “attractive” style, and said they avoided getting wet or sweating during exercise because they worried it would ruin their hairstyle.

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

Segar, M., Heinrich, K.,  Zieff, S., Lyn, R., Gustat, J., Tompkins, N.O., Perry, C., Meyer, M.R.U., Bornstein, D., Manteiga, A., Eyler, A.,  Journal of Transport & Health (July 2016).

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. The study authors 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. These data offer insights into preliminary suggestions for framing walking to boost its daily relevance, desirability, and usefulness to low-income urban mothers.

From a Vital Sign to Vitality: Selling Exercise So Patients Want to Buy It

Segar, M., Guérin, E., Phillips, E., Fortier, M., Current Sports Medicine Reports (July/August 2016).

Through research on decision-making, motivation, consumer behavior, and meaningful goal pursuit, this article features six evidence-based issues to help clinicians make physical activity more relevant and compelling for patients to sustain in ways that concurrently support patient-centered care. Physical activity prescriptions and counseling can evolve to reflect affective and behavioral science and sell exercise so patients want to buy it.

Gender Differences in Trajectories of Physical Activity Among Older Americans With Diabetes

Connell, C., McLaughlin, S., Janevic, M., Journal of Aging and Health (July 2015).

In this investigation, SHARP Pilot Grant recipient Cathleen Connell (Public Health, U-M) examined engagement in physical activity over a 6-year period among older U.S. adults with diabetes and the impact of gender on physical activity over time. Findings showed less than half of older adults with diabetes were physically active at baseline, with the percentage of men engaging in physical activity greater than for women. Over the 6-year period, the probability of engaging in physical activity declined by more than 30%, with no significant variation by gender. Although men and women experienced similar declines in physical activity, the physical activity trajectory for women started and remained less favorable than for men.

Prescribing Pleasure and Meaning: Cultivating Walking Motivation and Maintenance

Segar, M. L. & Richardson, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2014).

Leveraging insights from key affective and behavioral science, this open-access Commentary in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine discusses how to make walking communications more relevant and persuasive to foster long-term motivation and behavioral maintenance.

Physical Activity Advertisements that Feature Daily Well-Being Improve Autonomy and Body Image in Overweight Women but Not Men.

Segar, M. L. Updegraff, J., Zikmund-Fisher, B., & Richardson, C., Journal of Obesity, (Special Issue on Motivation, Self-regulation, and Weight Control, 2012).

This paper describes a randomized experiment investigating which benefits from exercise are more motivating to overweight and obese men and women and suggests that differences exist by gender and BMI.

Rebranding Exercise: Closing the Gap Between Values and Behavior, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Segar, M. L., Eccles, J. S., & Richardson, C., International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2011).

This paper describes a study investigating which benefits from exercise are most valued and predict the most and least participation over time and suggests that a gap exists between what people say they value about exercising what motivates the most participation.


Peer-Reviewed Publications: Sport

Nonmedical Prescription Opioid and Heroin Use Among Adolescents Who Engage in Sports and Exercise

Veliz, P., Boyd, C., McCabe, S.E., Pediatrics (August 2016).

Teen athletes are less likely to abuse prescription opioids and heroin than non-athletes, indicating that sports participation may have a “protective factor,” according to a new study by researchers Philip Veliz, Carol Boyd and Sean Esteban McCabe.

The study’s authors write, “The physical activity and positive social connections embedded within sport may serve as a positive developmental experience that can potentially deter youth from serious types of illicit substance use like NPOU (nonmedical prescription opioid use), heroin or cocaine.”

Is Migraine Headache Associated With Concussion in Athletes? A Case-Control Study.

Eckner J.T., Seifert T., Pescovitz A., Xeiger M., Kutcher J. , Clin J Sports Med (July 2016).

The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between migraine headache and concussion in athletes. Controlling for between-group differences in age and sex, there was a significant positive association between concussion group status and history of migraine headache. However, when including a previous concussion history in the statistical model, this relationship failed to reach significance. These results suggest that there is an association between migraine headache and concussion in athletes, but the cause-effect nature of this relationship cannot be determined. Migraine headache should be considered a modifying factor when caring for concussed athletes.

The Influence of Pay-to-Play on Participation in Interscholastic Sports: School-level Analysis of Michigan’s Public Schools

Zdroik, J., Veliz, P. , Journal of Physical Activity & Health (in press).

School districts in the United States are turning towards new sources of revenue to maintain their interscholastic sports programs. One common revenue generating policy is the implementation of participation fees, also known as pay-to-play. One concern of the growing trend of participation fees is how it impacts student participation opportunities. This study looks at how pay-to-play fees are impacting participation opportunities and participation rates in the state of Michigan.

Substance use among adolescent sexual minority athletes: A secondary analysis of the youth risk behavior survey

Veliz, P., Boyd, C., McCabe, S.E.,  Addictive Behaviors Report (June 2016).

Researchers published a secondary analysis of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2009-2013) which assessed adolescents’ past 30-day use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana among sexual minority athletes, heterosexual athletes, heterosexual non-athletes, and sexual minority non-athletes. While a robust literature exists regarding substance use patterns among adolescent athletes, no studies have examined substance use among adolescent sexual minority athletes; a subpopulation of adolescents that may experience greater rates of substance use due to their marginalized status within the context of sport.

The results of the study suggest that the context of sport may not be an additional site for stress among adolescent athletes who identify as a sexual minority, and subsequently may have little impact on substance use behaviors. However, participating in sport may not serve as a protective context for adolescent sexual minorities given that substance use behaviors may be learned and reinforced.

Substance Use Among Sexual Minority Collegiate Athletes: A National Study

Veliz, P.,  Epstein-Ngo, Q.,  Zdroik, J., Boyd, C., McCabe, S.E.,  Substance Use & Misuse (March 2016).

Researchers examined different types of substance use and diagnosis of substance use disorders among sexual minority collegiate athletes. Findings show that sexual minority collegiate athletes had greater odds of past 30-day cigarette use, past 30-day alcohol use, past 30-day marijuana use, and indicating being diagnosed or treated for a substance use disorder during the past 12 months when compared to either heterosexual collegiate athletes or heterosexual nonathletes, but had similar odds on these outcomes when compared to sexual minority nonathletes. Sexual minority collegiate athletes also had greater odds of binge drinking during the past 2 weeks when compared to either heterosexual nonathletes or sexual minority nonathletes, but had similar odds on this outcome when compared to heterosexual collegiate athletes. Additional analyses by gender reveal that male sexual minority athletes are at the greatest risk of being diagnosed or treated for a substance use disorder. The authors conclude that sexual minority collegiate athletes (particularly males) may be at a greater risk of substance use disorders in part because of the difficulty of trying to maintain an athletic identity within a social environment that is traditionally homophobic.

Inequalities in Athletic Participation During Adolescence: A Nationwide Study of Attrition Rates in Organized Sports in the U.S.

Veliz, P., Sabo, D., Health Behavior and Policy Review (March 2016).

Researchers sought to improve understanding of how inequalities based on sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influence opportunities to participate in sports during adolescence. Data from the Monitoring the Future survey were merged to analyze attrition rates in 15 different organized sports in the United States. The average attrition rate between 8th and 12th grades was roughly 32%, with field hockey, gymnastics, and volleyball generating the highest attrition rates. Multivariate analyses confirm that sports with greater percentages of girls and minorities have significantly higher attrition rates.

“It’s Dude Time!”- A Quarter Century of Excluding Women’s Sports in Televised News and Highlight Shows

Cooky, C., Messner, M.; Musto, M., Communication & Sport (June 2015).

The last quarter century has seen a dramatic movement of girls and women into sport, but this social change is reflected unevenly in sports media. This study, a 5-year update to a 25-year longitudinal study, indicates that the quantity of coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news and highlights shows remains dismally low. Even more so than in past iterations of this study, the lion’s share of coverage is given to the “big three” of men’s pro and college football, basketball, and baseball. The study reveals some qualitative changes over time, including a decline in the once-common tendency to present women as sexualized objects of humor replaced by a tendency to view women athletes in their roles as mothers. The analysis highlights a stark contrast between the exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, and the often dull, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories. The article ends with suggestions for three policy changes that would move TV sports news and highlights shows toward greater gender equity and fairness.

To download a free PDF copy of the study, please go to:

Competitive Sports Participation in High School and Subsequent Substance Use in Young Adulthood: Assessing Differences Based on Level of Contact

Veliz, P., Schulenberg, J., Patrick, M.,  Kloska, D., Zarrett, N., McCabe, S.E., International Review for the Sociology of Sport (May 2015).

The objective of this study is to examine how participation in different types of competitive sports (based on level of contact) during high school is associated with substance use 1 to 4 years after the 12th grade.  The analyses, which controlled for 12th grade substance use, school difficulties, time with friends, and socio-demographic characteristics, found that respondents who participated in at least one competitive sport during the 12th grade had greater odds of binge drinking during the past two weeks 1 to 4 years after the 12th grade, when compared to their peers who did not participate in sports during their 12th grade year. Moreover, respondents who participated in high-contact sports (i.e. football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and wrestling) had greater odds of binge drinking and engaging in marijuana use during the past 30 days 1 to 4 years after the 12th grade when compared to their peers who did not participate in these types of sports during their 12th grade year. Accordingly, the findings indicate important distinctions in sport participation experiences on long-term substance use risk that can help inform potential interventions among young athletes.

Competitive Sport Involvement and Substance Use among Adolescents: A Nationwide Study

Veliz, P., Boyd, C., McCabe, S.E., Substance Use & Misuse (January 2015).

The major objective for this investigation is to examine the relationship between sports participation and substance use among adolescents and young adults. The impetus for this question stems from the unsettled debate regarding the role of sport in the development of adolescents and young adults. The paper concludes that parents, educators, and policy makers need to consider that some sporting contexts may be a catalyst to engage in risky behaviors like substance use.

Gender Role Beliefs and Parents’ Support for Athletic Participation

Heinze, J., Heinze, K, Davis, M., Butchart, A., Singer, D., Clark, S., Youth & Society (October 2014).

Pay-to-play fees in public schools place more support for sport participation in the hands of parents; this may disproportionately affect the ability of girls to garner the benefits of sports. Using an online survey of a national sample of parents (N = 814), we examined the relationship between parents’ gender role beliefs, parents’ beliefs about the benefits and monetary value of sports, and the types of sports their daughters play. The results indicate that parents placed somewhat greater value on sport for sons, than for daughters, both ideologically and financially. Gender role beliefs played a small, but significant role, in shaping parents’ beliefs about their daughters’ involvement in sport, and the types of sports their daughters play.

Painfully Obvious: A Longitudinal Examination of Medical Use and Misuse of Opioid Medication Among Adolescent Sports Participants

Veliz, P., Epstein-Ngo, Q., Meier, E., Ross-Durow, P., Boyd, C., & McCabe, S., Journal of Adolescent Health (March 2014).

This manuscript analyzed the association between different types of sports participation and medical use and misuse of prescription opioids. Given the higher risk of injuries among adolescents who participate in sport, this study reports on the sports participants were at a greater risk to medically use or misuse opioid medications.

Gender, Academics and Interscholastic Sports Participation at the School Level:

A Gender Specific Analysis of the Relationship Between Interscholastic Sports Participation and AP Enrollment.

Veliz, P.,  Shakib, S., Sociological Focus (January 2014).

Using a national sample of 4,644 public high schools during 2009-2010, this study investigates the association between gender and schools’ sport participation rates and schools’ advanced placement enrollment rates (AP math, AP science, AP foreign language, and overall AP enrollment).

Playing Through Pain?: Sports Participation and Nonmedical Use of Opioid Medications Among Adolescents

Veliz, P., McCabe, S. & Boyd, C., American Journal of Public Health, (2013).

This manuscript analyzed the association between different types of sports participation and nonmedical use of prescription opioids. Certain high contact sports (i.e., wrestling and football) were found to be associated with a greater risk of nonmedical use of opioids (this could be the result of higher injury rates in high contacts sports).

Adolescent Athletic Participation and Nonmedical Adderall Use: An Exploratory Analysis of A Performance-Enhancing Drug

Veliz, P., McCabe, S. & Boyd, C., Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, (2013).

A primary motive for adolescents and young adults to nonmedically use prescription stimulants is to help them study.  Adolescents and young adults are using prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, as performance enhancers in certain social domains, including academics and sports. This exploratory study examined whether certain types of sports participation were associated with a greater risk to nonmedically use Adderall.



No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

By Michelle Segar, Amacom (2015)

Translating twenty years of research on exercise and motivation into a simple four-point program, Michelle Segar helps readers broaden their definition of exercise, find pleasure in physical activity, and discover realistic ways to fit it into their lives. Activities we enjoy, we repeat—making this evidence-based system more sustainable in the long run than a regimen of intense workouts. No Sweat reveals that while “better health” or “weight loss” sound like strong incentives, human beings are hardwired to choose immediate gratification over delayed benefits.

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility

Edited by Juan Luis Paramio Salcines, Kathy Babiak, Geoff Walters, Routledge (2014)

The Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility is the first book to offer a comprehensive survey of theories and concepts of CSR as applied to sport, and the social, ethical and environmental aspects of sport business and management. It offers an overview of perspectives and approaches to CSR in sport, examines the unique features of the sport industry in relation to CSR, explores the tools, models, common pitfalls and examples of best practice on which managers can draw, and discusses how CSR and corporate citizenship can be integrated into the sport management curriculum.



Report Cover: Beyond X's and O's

Beyond X’s & O’s: 

Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College Sports

June, 2016–Research Assistant Professor and SHARP scholar Philip Veliz coauthored a report on gender bias & women’s college sports coaches, which was published by the Women’s Sports Foundation. The study assessed the workplace experiences and views of female and male coaches across the spectrum of national, intercollegiate sports.

Beyond X’s & O’s is the largest ever nationally representative survey of female and male coaches of women’s college sports. The findings confirm there is systemic gender bias in the coaching workplace of women’s college sports, and that while many female coaches experience gender bias, few of their male counterparts perceive it.

Key findings and the full report are available at


Report cover: "Finishing Last: Girls of Color and School Sports Opportunities"

Finishing Last: 

Girls of Color and School Sports Opportunities

April, 2015–This report by the National Women’s Law Center and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, with support from Active Living Research, the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, School of Kinesiology, and the Women’s Sports Foundation, examines sports participation opportunities by girls of color in U.S. high schools.



Progress and Promise:

Title IX at 40 Conference White Paper

February, 2013–This white paper reviews the proceedings of Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40, a SHARP conference held at the University of Michigan, May, 9-11, 2012. Following the discussion of the conference themes and key takeaways are areas of future research discussed at the Title IX at 40 Conference and compiled by the SHARP Center. There is great opportunity for researchers to link Title IX with many of these future research directions.



Women in the Olympic and Paralympic Games:

An Analysis of Participation and Leadership Opportunities

April, 2013–SHARP has released its latest research report, which provides new insights into the generally poor representation of women in leadership roles and sports participation in the international and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic organizations. The ground-breaking report also assesses the extent that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) are fulfilling their stated missions with respect to gender equality.



The Decade of Decline:

Gender Equity in High School Sports

Oct. 2012–This SHARP report provides valuable insights into the state of high school athletics and the inequalities that still exist in the US public school system, despite the passing of the landmark legislation, Title IX, 40 years ago.



SHARP Center Report:

Progress without Equity

The SHARP Center for Women and Girls is pleased to announce its participation in the first-of-its-kind report on gender and high school sports participation, recently released by our collaborator, the Women’s Sports Foundation. This report, “Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06,” flows from an analysis of high schools that is unprecedented in its national and historical scope. It uses merged data from the Civil Rights Data Collection and the Common Core of Data, which is collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.


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