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J Health Soc Behav. 2011 Jun;52(2):197-211. doi: 10.1177/0022146510394862.

Education and racial-ethnic differences in types of exercise in the United States.

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University of Houston, Department of Sociology, Houston, TX77204–3012, USA.


Epidemiological research typically focuses on the intensity, frequency, or duration of physical activity, without consideration of the socially meaningful dimensions of exercise. The authors use data from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey (N = 17,455) and information on participation in 15 exercise behaviors to examine educational differences in exercise among non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans. Factor analysis identifies three types of exercise: team sports (e.g., basketball, football), fitness activities (e.g., running, weight lifting), and activities that require the use of specialized facilities (e.g., golf, tennis). Cultural capital and human capital perspectives offer insight into different dimensions of the relationship between education and exercise. Whites disproportionately undertake facility-based exercise, blacks tend toward team and fitness activities, and Mexican Americans gravitate toward team sports. Our findings offer insight into the social stratification of health and can aid the design of public health interventions.

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