Low-Income New Yorkers See Barriers to Physical Fitness, Study by Researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health Finds

Investigating barriers and opportunities for physical activity in low-income communities

From 2002 to 2004, researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston examined the perceptions of New York City residents of low-income areas about their neighborhoods to determine factors that help or hinder them from increasing their physical activity.

They also examined the readiness of patients at New York City community health centers to increase their physical activity and improve their diets—and to consult on such matters with their physicians.

The researchers collected their data primarily through surveys and focus groups. They designed the study to inform future investigations regarding factors in the community environment that encourage and discourage people from being physically active.

Key Findings: The researchers reported key findings in an article published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Women who participated in the focus groups rated the following changes to the urban environment, listed in order of priority, as key to promoting physical activity:

  • More police protection.
  • Cleaner streets.
  • Removal of drugs from streets.
  • More street lights.
  • Walking groups.
  • Free gyms.

Key Conclusions:

  • Using a survey, focus groups and an environmental audit in combination can achieve a comprehensive assessment of the environmental factors that influence physical activity in a given community.