The Influence of Personal Background on Physical Activity

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

What sports do you love to play? Have you ever considered that your personal background may actually influence why you play one sport versus another? This lesson will describe how background factors influence your choices for physical activity.

Physical Activities

You or someone you know surely loves sports. Perhaps it's football, soccer, basketball, or baseball. Maybe you even like to play one of these sports instead of just watching it on television. If you don't like sports per se, that doesn't mean you don't get any physical activity. You might be an avid hiker, runner, swimmer, or a bodybuilder.

Did you ever stop to think about why you might like or dislike a particular type of physical activity? It may have to do with your personal background.

Age, Gender, and Culture

One of the biggest influences on physical activity is age. Barring extreme exceptions, you're not going to see Grandpa climb Mt. Everest, at least not with a happy ending. Similarly, you can't expect a five-year-old to be involved in bodybuilding. Those in the prime of their life in terms of physical activity (somewhere between the late teens and late thirties) can do almost anything they put their mind to and do it quite well. This includes sports, competitions like the Ironman triathlon, and personal physical activities such as backpacking.

Another personal influence on physical activity is gender and its relationship to culture. In some nations, girls and women are either forbidden to play sports or are culturally discouraged from doing so. This leaves most sports and physical activities to the boys and men. This isn't true in every culture, of course, as Western nations are moving towards encouraging girls and women to be physically active just as much as the boys. But even within these nations, gender still plays a role in physical activity, but by choice.

You won't see too many girls or women striving to play competitive professional football, and you won't see too many guys interested in becoming champions at rhythmic gymnastics (a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, and dance). Men have the ability and opportunity to do so, but few seem to choose to do so, perhaps owing to cultural stereotypes and/or personal choice. Of course, such cultural norms can change, especially within Western society. Not that long ago, seeing women fighting one another on television via pay-per-view events may have been laughable; now its becoming a big business as women increasingly enter this previously male-dominated arena.

Race, Economics, Language, and Ethnicity

Interestingly, race (i.e. ones racial makeup) also seems to influence physical activity. According to more than one study, physical activity outside of the workplace is lower for Blacks and Hispanics but higher for Whites. Why? There may be several reasons. It could be that Whites have better access to education that emphasizes physical activity for health. Another reason could be that Whites, in general, may have more time for physical activity outside of the workplace, better access to facilities like gyms, or simply more money to pay into gyms and sports programs for themselves and their children. Thus, socioeconomic status clearly plays some role in a person's physical activity. People with more money tend to have greater free time for leisure activities like sports, more money to buy equipment and gear, and more access to better facilities to enjoy these physical activities.

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