Redefining Racial Residential Segregation and its Association With Physical Activity Among African Americans 50 years and Older: A Mixed Methods Approach

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Physical inactivity is one of the factors contributing to disproportionate disease rates among older African Americans. Previous literature indicates that older African Americans are more likely to live in racially segregated neighborhoods and that racial residential segregation is associated with limited opportunities for physical activity. A cross-sectional mixed methods study was conducted guided by the concept of therapeutic landscapes. Multilevel regression analyses demonstrated that racial residential segregation was associated with more minutes of physical activity and greater odds of meeting physical activity recommendations. Qualitative interviews revealed the following physical activity related themes: aging of the neighborhood, knowing your neighbors, feeling of safety, and neighborhood racial identity. Perceptions of social cohesion enhanced participants’ physical activity, offering a plausible explanation to the higher rates of physical activity found in this population. Understanding how social cohesion operates within racially segregated neighborhoods can help to inform the design of effective interventions for this population.

Armstrong-Brown is with the Institute on Aging, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Eng, Hammond, and Bowling are with the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Zimmer is with the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Address author correspondence to Janelle Armstrong-Brown at jab@unc.edu.