Physical activity, human agency, urban neighborhoods, African-American, qualitative research, grounded theory


This article explores strategies developed by African American residents in response to barriers to physical activity in two low-income Detroit neighborhoods. Using 47 in-depth, qualitative interviews, a grounded theory approach allowed the analysis to be reframed around the ways in which structural factors conditioned, but did not determine the human agency of residents seeking physical activity. Interviews revealed numerous responses to structural barriers such as devising home routines, cognitive mapping to avoid perceived threats, and leaving the neighborhood to access resources. Differences in neighborhood contexts, along with unique individual concerns, showed that agency was neither a constant nor independent force, but rather was partially constituted by structural conditions, culture, and other factors.

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