The Invisible Employee: University Housekeeping Employees’ Perceptions of Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

A significant literature links race and socioeconomic status with physical inactivity and negative health outcomes. The aim of this study was to explore physical activity (PA) perceptions of an underserved, lower socioeconomic minority sector of the workforce.

Methods:

Two focus groups were conducted to examine university housekeepers’ perceptions of physical activity. Demographic and anthropometric data were also obtained.

Results:

Participants (N = 12; 100% female, 100% African-American) overwhelmingly associated PA with traditional exercise (eg, going to a gym). The most important barrier to PA was the perception of being active on the job, thus not needing to do leisure time PA. The most important perceived benefit to PA was improvement of physical and mental health. Employees perceived that a university investment in employees’ health might improve morale, especially within low-pay employee sectors where low levels of job satisfaction may be present.

Conclusions:

Although perceived benefits to PA in this population are consistent with other employee sectors, perceived barriers to PA may be unique to this sector of the workforce. PA promotion programs should focus on providing resources as well as guidelines that demonstrate the need for PA outside of the workplace setting. Such programs may improve employee health, morale, and productivity.

Das and Sartore-Baldwin are with the Dept of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. Mahar is with the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA.

Das (dasb@ecu.edu) is corresponding author.