Negotiating Physical Activity - Afro Immigrant Women in Canada Tackle Cardiovascular Disease

Date created: 
Physical activity
Black women
Feminist cultural studies
Black bodies

Epidemiological research suggest that regular physical activity is beneficial for overall physical, psychological and mental health but more specifically, as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, physical activity, done a regular basis, has been shown to be positively associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease (Pate et al. 1995; Tremblay et al. 2011). Unfortunately, research on physical activity participation rates suggests that a significant percentage of Black women are not sufficiently active (Bryan et al 2006 and Chiu 2010). However, since much of the existing research places emphasis on the barriers to physical activity for ‘inactive’ Black women, less is known about the experiences of the women who are physically active. Using a feminist cultural studies framework that integrates the critical insights of anti-racist feminism, Black feminist theory and postcolonial feminist studies, this study seeks to understand and explore the behaviour patterns, and their associated meanings, for a small group of highly active Black women. Fifteen women participated in the study; three of whom are non-Black women. The women’s narratives suggest that their perceptions and experiences of their body was a major determinant in how they participated in physical activity. The women received, processed, and interpreted messages about the benefits of physical activity in the maintenance of healthier lives in ways that motivated them to be physically active. The implication is that Black women are paying attention to their bodies and to health messages about their bodies. The challenges that the women experienced, related to issues of race/racism and ideas around Blackness as well as disparities in cultural expectations. The extent to which the women were physically active had a bearing on how well they had learned to work around issues of Blackness, evidenced in how they chose to strategize and negotiate around possibilities to be active. This study has served as a starting point for dialogue around the participation of ‘ordinary’ Black Canadian women in physical activity. It has established that the diversity that exists among Black people/women as well as the complexities around ideas of a Black community require strategies that are sensitive of these issues.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Cynthia Patton
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.