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CDC data shows Hispanics have the highest rate of physical inactivity due to structural barriers

Posted at 3:23 PM, Oct 12, 2022

According to a 2022 CDC report, Hispanics have the highest rate of physical inactivity. The report states 32.1% of Hispanics are physically inactive. That's the highest percentage of inactivity among racial-ethnic groups.

Health experts say that's a huge concern considering lack of physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases. Terra Nova CrossFit gym in Aurora, Colorado, has found a way to attract Hispanics to the gym. Gym owner Roberto Martinez says he wasn't big into gyms until he was introduced to CrossFit.

"I don't think it's because of lack of interest or desire to be active," Martinez said. "It's just we may not find a place where we feel relaxed and welcome and safe and not being judged. Like conventional gyms, you know, I didn't see that many Hispanics or Latinos in it."

Considering the CDC stats, that's not surprising. University of Tennessee Knoxville Professor of Nursing Cristina Barroso has been part of a movement to address how environments (like the job you hold) influence health behaviors.

"You might engage in a lot of physical activity during the job or during your occupation, like construction work or the labor service," Barroso said. "But you're so exhausted and you're so stressed out that when you get home and it's time to relax and have leisure time, you have other competing responsibilities."

Barroso says Latinos face multiple structural barriers that keep them from regular exercise.

"Oftentimes, many Latinos have no disposable income to buy a vehicle," Barroso said. "And so that makes it difficult for them to get around places."

Even if they can drive to a gym, they may not be able to afford the fees to join. She adds many Hispanic populations live in areas where there are no sidewalks or safe places to walk.

"There are many systems that have been in place for years, decades, centuries that perhaps when they were first initiated, were based on discriminatory practices," Barroso said. "I think now we're becoming aware of those consequences of those discriminatory practices for various marginalized groups."

Born and raised in Mexico City, Martinez says he has an easier time connecting with other Spanish speakers. However, he believes any gym can create an inclusive atmosphere.

"We have flags, you know, from a lot of Latin American countries, from other parts of the world as well," Martinez said. "And I think that also makes them feel like, okay, you know, I'm safe here. I belong here. I am a part of a big community. You know, I'm represented by my flag."

Barroso says she has hope the Hispanic population will have more opportunities to exercise as the country focuses on addressing racial disparities.

"The best way to get people into the doors to be at fitness centers, at gyms, at parks and at green spaces is to listen to what the community wants," Barroso said.