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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 719140, 8 pages
Research Article

Barriers to Physical Activity in East Harlem, New York

1Department of Health Evidence and Policy, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA
2Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA 02118, USA

Received 14 January 2012; Revised 9 April 2012; Accepted 23 April 2012

Academic Editor: António Palmeira

Copyright © 2012 Ashley M. Fox et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. East Harlem is an epicenter of the intertwining epidemics of obesity and diabetes in New York. Physical activity is thought to prevent and control a number of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, both independently and through weight control. Using data from a survey collected on adult (age 18+) residents of East Harlem, this study evaluated whether perceptions of safety and community-identified barriers were associated with lower levels of physical activity in a diverse sample. Methods. We surveyed 300 adults in a 2-census tract area of East Harlem and took measurements of height and weight. Physical activity was measured in two ways: respondents were classified as having met the weekly recommended target of 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity (walking) per week (or not) and reporting having engaged in at least one recreational physical activity (or not). Perceived barriers were assessed through five items developed by a community advisory board and perceptions of neighborhood safety were measured through an adapted 7-item scale. Two multivariate logistic regression models with perceived barriers and concerns about neighborhood safety were modeled separately as predictors of engaging in recommended levels of exercise and recreational physical activity, controlling for respondent weight and sociodemographic characteristics. Results. The most commonly reported perceived barriers to physical activity identified by nearly half of the sample were being too tired or having little energy followed by pain with exertion and lack of time. Multivariate regression found that individuals who endorsed a greater number of perceived barriers were less likely to report having met their weekly recommended levels of physical activity and less likely to engage in recreational physical activity controlling for covariates. Concerns about neighborhood safety, though prevalent, were not associated with physical activity levels. Conclusions. Although safety concerns were prevalent in this low-income, minority community, it was individual barriers that correlated with lower physical activity levels.