Working Out Race, Class and Gender: A Study of Barriers to Gym Memberships in Baltimore City Open Access

Using narrative data derived from field notes and interviews with black women living in Baltimore city, this study explains how the city’s spatial layout, and black women’ s socioeconomic status, time allocation and body image impede them from securing gym memberships. Black women are the largest demographic group in the city and battle chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and breast cancer, which can be remedied through exercise. The focus on gym memberships is relevant as black women report the highest level of inactivity due to poor access to the safe and spacious neighborhoods, parks, trails and tracks that serve as alternative routes to exercise. Gyms can be a salient option for this population as they provide the safe space, equipment, resources and social support needed to navigate the world of fitness. Political, social and economic mechanisms that reproduce racial residential segregation force black women into fitness deserts, relegate them to poverty, foster a lack of time and contribute to their invisibility in gym advertisements. These realities both, discourage and impede black women living in Baltimore city from pursuing gym memberships.

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