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Karla A. Henderson

Research reports released almost every day extol the healthful physical and mental benefits of physical activity. Many women, however, fail to participate in physical activities because of reasons that relate to personal, social, and organizational constraints. Understanding what to do to help women enhance their physical activity involvement must be considered by many people. Change in directions that will add quality to women’s lives will not happen without consciously directed effort on the part of individuals, as well as institutions, within society. A basic assumption underlying this paper is that physical activity possesses the components of leisure when it is freely chosen and found enjoyable. Therefore, I propose that change needs to occur within society, among individuals, and by activity providers if opportunities for enjoyable and beneficial physical involvement are to be enhanced for girls and women.

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Women, Physical Activity, and Leisure: Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune?

AAHPERD Invited Scholar (April 12, 2002) Presentation

Karla A. Henderson

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Karla A. Henderson and Barbara E. Ainsworth

Cultural influences are often important in shaping women’s approaches to healthy living (Sarto, 1998). The lives of many people of color in American society generally are associated with close family ties and community identification (Keller, 1993). If these assumptions are true, then it may be useful to understand the social dynamics that exist in the lives of African American and American Indian women to better understand health issues related to their participation, or lack of participation, in leisure and physical activities. The purpose of this analysis was to explore the meanings of social support and physical activity as expressed by older African American and American Indian women who participated in the Cultural Activity Participation Study (CAPS). We used a grounded theory approach to analyze data from in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with 56 African American and American Indian women in the United States. Based upon the analysis complex social dynamics occurred that both encouraged and inhibited women’s involvement in physical activities. It was shown that these women’s families and community relationships tended to be more important than their personal identities, and that social support systems had an influence on perceptions of, opportunities for, and involvement in leisure related physical activity.

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Karla A. Henderson and M. Deborah Bialeschki

The purpose of this research was to explore the meanings of women’s involvement in physical recreation. Although much has been written about girls’ and women’s involvement in competitive athletics, less is known about the everyday physical involvement of women who are committed to fitness activities, recreational sports, and/or outdoor activities. Data from indepth interviews were collected from 29 participants in physical activity. A process of “constant comparison” was used to develop conclusions about the social psychological meanings of physical recreation. Physical recreation was analyzed in relation to three themes: the setting and structures associated with physical activity, the worth of physical activity, and the means for negotiating opportunities for participation. The gendered meanings associated with physical recreation provided further social psychological and sociological understandings of the recreation choices and multilayered reality of women’s lives.