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The exercise of daily life: towards an understanding of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income… Dyck, Lesley Ann 1998

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The Exercise of Daily Life: Towards an understanding of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers by L E S L E Y A N N D Y C K B . A . , Carleton University, 1988 A THESIS S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T OF T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E OF M A S T E R OF A R T S in T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES S C H O O L OF H U M A N K I N E T I C S We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y OF B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A August 1998 ©Les l ey A . Dyck, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. L>0rtrrtent of Hu A U / J ]<(/U£T7CS The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) A B S T R A C T Low-income women are more likely to experience poor health and less likely to be physically active. However, most of the research has only considered physical activity from the culturally dominant norm of fitness, recreation and leisure. Activity performed in the context of daily life outside the program setting has not been investigated, especially not for low-income single mothers who are marginalized within the dominant culture. The purpose of this study is to explore the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers. Three women between the ages of 28 and 32 participated in this study, recruited from a housing project for low-income single mothers. A variety of established qualitative research methods were used to identify the practice of physical activity in daily life and investigate personal meanings. These methods included: a discussion group, individual in-depth interviews, and on-going field notes. Additional methods designed and assessed included: community assessment, community mapping exercise, physical activity logs, and participant observation. Analysis consisted of mapping data themes and interpreting these themes using a organizing framework based on the literature. Four primary analytic concepts for understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life emerged: work and leisure, well-being and health, quality of life, and power and control: This analysis, based on the organizing framework and use of new data collection techniques, makes an important contribution by challenging some of the dominant myths in the literature related to physical activity and low-income women. The assumption that low-income single mothers are the least active population needs to be revisited. Future research must also consider that physical activity may not be as stable as defined by the social-class literature. The practice of physical activity may both enhance and constrain positive health, as well as be experienced as both conforming to and resisting social norms. Finally, the negotiation of power at the level of the body demonstrates the potential for physical activity to contribute to self-esteem and personal empowerment. TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION A . Purpose and Research Questions B. Defining the Context 1. Low-income single mothers 2. The practice of physical activity 3. Daily life and lifestyle 4. Meanings of physical activity C. Overview of the chapters II CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE A . Organizing Framework 1. The individual: resources or capital 2. Lifestyle: behaviour with meaning 3. Place: the ecology of physical activity 4. The social body: constraint and support 5. The lived body: resistance and conformity 6. Meaning and practice B. Discussion of the Literature 1. The individual a) determinants of physical activity b) social class 2. Location of physical activity in daily life a) leisure constraints b) active living c) lifestyle d) place 3. Social power and individual control a) human agency and the lived body b) social structures and the social body 4. Meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life a) health b) well-being and quality of life C. Implications of the Literature III CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODS 69 A. Principles of Qualitative Research 70 B. Review of Ethical Issues 72 1. Obtaining formal approval 72 2. Role of the researcher and reciprocity 73 3. Issues of power 76 4. Textual representation 78 C. Research Site and Sample 80 1. Site 80 2. Sample 82 D. Data Collection Methods 84 1. Discussion group 85 2. In-depth interviews 87 3. Physical activity log 91 4. Descriptive assessment of the community and community mapping exercise 92 5. Participant observation 94 6. Field notes 96 E. Answering the Research Question on Method 97 F. Managing and analyzing the Data 100 1. Data management 100 2. Data analysis procedures 101 IV CHAPTER FOUR: PRESENTATION OF THE DATA 103 A . The Community 104 B. Profiles of the Women 110 1. Rachel 110 2. Christina 112 3. Morgan 114 C. Daily Life and the Practice of Physical Activity 115 1. Chores 115 2. Physical activity 120 3. Recreation and exercise 123 4. Walking 128 D. Change and Physical Activity 131 1. Lifestage 132 2. Attitudes about change 137 3. Motherhood 139 v E. Resources for Physical Activity in Daily Life 142 1. Social support 143 2. Energy and effort 148 3. The lived body 152 4. Health and self-care 158 5. Social identity 165 6. Environment and safety 168 7. Financial resources 175 8. Control 178 F. Summary of Data Themes 182 V CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS 184 A . Introduction 184 B. Meaning and Practice 184 C. Analytic Concepts . . 187 1. Organizing framework 188 2. Work and leisure 189 3. Well-being and health 192 4. Quality of life 195 5. Power and control 198 D. Discussion of the Research Questions 201 E. Implications of the Research 202 1. Contributions and suggestions for future research 202 a) lifestyle and leisure 203 b) health promotion 204 c) sociology of the body 205 2. Implications for policy and programs 205 F. Full-Circle 208 REFERENCES 210 APPENDIX A - Subject Informed Consent #1 218 APPENDIX B - Discussion Group Sample Questions 220 APPENDIX C - Subject Informed Consent #2 221 APPENDIX D-Interview #1 Sample Questions 223 APPENDIX E - Physical Activity Logs (written and recorded) 224 APPENDIX F - Interview #2 Sample Questions 226 APPENDIX G - Participant Observation Cues 227 APPENDIX H-Certificate of Ethics Approval 228 LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE 1 Organizing Framework: Conceptualizing the Meaning and Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life 18 FIGURE 2 Data Themes 183 FIGURE 3 Organizing Framework: Conceptualizing the Meaning and Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life for Low-Income Single Mothers .188 vii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My greatest thanks goes to the four women who participated in this study. This research would not have been possible without their commitment and unique blend of energy, enthusiasm and humour in the face of the struggle of their daily lives. A special thank you is also necessary to both Dr. Wendy Frisby and Dr. Allison Tom for their care and support of both me and my work. I would also like to thank Dr. Paule McNicoll and Dr. Jim Frankish for their comments and insight. I would also like to recognize the love and support I have always received from my family — thank you to my parents who encouraged my independent thinking, to my brother for his ability to really listen, and to my sister for living her life according to her principles. And finally, to my partner John who always reminds me to follow my passion. viii CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION What do we have to offer to the currently i l l and the about-to-be-ill segments of the population; those whose illnesses have more to do with workplace rather than lifestyle, with the ravages of unemployment rather than defects of character, with the cumulative effects of impoverishment — impoverishment which is becoming increasingly feminized? Shall we say that they should aerobicize, jazzercise, and jog their problems away? (Ingham, 1985, p. 54). I think it happened the day I looked around the gym and saw that in spite of the various ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels represented by the women and men who regularly showed up for my fitness class, we all looked the same in a white middle-class kind of way. Or maybe it was after I presented a 'wellness' session at a community conference for low-income single mothers and a woman asked me how 'active l iving ' could improve her well-being when she was having problems getting enough good food for herself and her family. Or it could have been when I organized a subsidized pass to the fitness facility for a woman who was staying in the emergency shelter operated by the same social service organization, and later noticed she was asked to leave the gym because she was not wearing running shoes. I do not remember exactly when it was, but at some point in my work as a fitness, recreation and health promotion practitioner I started to ask the same questions as Ingham (1985) does in the opening quotation. These questions forced me to re-examine my assumptions about the inherent benefits of physical activity, especially for low-income single mothers who are largely marginalized within the dominant culture, of which I must recognize I am a part. A s a healthy, fit, white, middle-class, university-educated woman with considerable participation and programming experience in sport, recreation and fitness, I had always made the assumption physical activity would enhance the health and quality of life of low-income and 1 otherwise marginalized women, as it had for me . Through my work in a community-based non-governmental organization, I struggled to increase accessibility to existing fitness and recreation programs and to develop new initiatives encouraging active lifestyles among these women. However, much to my discomfort, these efforts met with limited success. The level of participation in the organized programs I had designed for low-income women was considered low or inadequate by traditional programming standards. I could not figure out why this was the case and finally started to consider that the 'problem' was not with the women I was trying to help, but possibly with my inability to understand physical activity from their perspective. In search of a greater understanding and possibly an explanation for this lack of participation in organized physical activity, I turned to the academic literature and quickly became frustrated. The majority of the research emphasizes the physiological and mental benefits of being active, the design of programs to achieve these results, and the implementation of these program in various (usually middle-class) communities. Very few studies consider the context within which physical activity is experienced in daily life, and the impact the broader social structures have on this experience, especially with respect to minority and marginalized populations. For example, most of the commonly cited literature on the benefits of physical activity confirms the importance of physical activity for preventing disease, improving quality of life, and speeding rehabilitation following a medical intervention or trauma. In fact, investigators suggest that 12% of the total number of annual deaths in the U S are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity (Hahn et al., 1986 and McGinnis & Foege, 1993, cited in Pate, Pratt & Blair, 1995). Research has also demonstrated protective effects of varying strength between hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and colon cancer (Duncan, 2 Gordon & Scott, 1991; Pate et al., 1995). Wi th respect to mental health, a positive relationship has been demonstrated between increased levels of physical activity and better mental health, less depression and lower levels of anxiety (Ford, 1990; Frankish, Mi l l igan & Reid, 1996). From a public health perspective, research has shown that more benefit is achieved when the least active persons take up exercise than when moderately active persons increase their activity by a similar amount (Haskell, 1994; Wimbush, 1994). The potential benefits of physical activity are clearly demonstrated, but these studies are not able to explain why low-income women are not attending organized physical activity programs. This raised questions for me about whether low levels of participation exist because these marginalized women do not experience the benefits, or perhaps not in the same way, or because physical activity is simply not accessible to them. Turning to the literature on barriers to participation in physical activity and exercise adherence, researchers have tended to focus on individual barriers such as sex, age, ability and health behaviours (Bialeschki & Michener, 1994; Costa & Guthrie, 1994; Hawkes & Holm, 1993; Henderson, Bedini, Hecht & Schuler, 1995; Smale & Shaw, 1993), and psychological factors such as self-esteem, body-image, self-efficacy, motivation, knowledge, attitude, and perceived enjoyment (Courneya & McAuley , 1994; Douthitt, 1994; K i n g , Blair & B i l d , 1992). ' While not in every case, these approaches tend to 'blame the victims' for their inability to participate in physical activity programs. The implication is that 'change' needs to start with the individual, an approach that may be effective for those with sufficient social, psychological and economic resources available to them. However, this did not seem appropriate to me when I considered the situation of many of the low-income women in my community who did not have adequate resources to house and feed their children, and who were marginalized within the larger social structure. 3 Turning to the literature about barriers to participation in leisure and recreation, I found that many researchers investigating program design and delivery have identified social and structural barriers to participation that exist in many recreation and community programs and facilities. The most common barriers include high registration fees, inadequate childcare, lack of transportation, inappropriate scheduling and a negative exercise environment (Dattilo, Dattilo, Samdahl & Kleiber, 1994). However, reflecting back on my work experience, most of these barriers that affect low-income women had been removed or considerably reduced through our program design. This suggests that the traditional 'barriers' approach to explaining the low levels of participation by these low-income women may not be adequate as it addresses primarily program barriers and not the socio-structural constraints present in the lives of low-income single mothers. This conclusion is reinforced by recent research on women's leisure which has demonstrated that constraints do not link directly with levels of leisure participation for women. In fact, the removal of constraints is unlikely to have a substantial effect as long as underlying social structures remain the same (Kay & Jackson, 1991, cited in Dattilo et al., 1994). A review of the health promotion literature also demonstrates that the primary research approach to women's health behaviour has taken an 'individualistic' and psychological or social psychological perspective (Candib, 1994; Lonnquist, Weiss & Larsen, 1992) which again places the emphasis for change on the individual. While an alternative 'determinants of health' approach has enabled researchers to incorporate social and environmental factors with individual considerations which enhance or constrain positive health (Mustard & Frank, 1993, cited in Frankish et al., 1996), the predictive value of these studies has been variable and limited by the disproportionate amount of information available on young, white, middle-class women. Most of the health promotion literature on 'underserved populations', which includes low-income 4 women, does not "properly identiffy] the values, norms, attitudes, and expectancies of certain underserved populations regarding particular health-enhancing and health damaging behaviors" (Marin, Burhansstipanov & Connell, 1995, p. 351). Based on this reading of the literature, I began to suspect that although physical activity is important for positive health, and that individual and program factors strongly influence levels of participation in physical activity, it may be that social structures, norms and values are more important for understanding the relationship between physical activity and low-income women, especially in the context of daily life. I started to have a sense of the magnitude of the theoretical, social and cultural gaps between the literature, organized physical activity programs and the lives of low-income women. I became convinced I had not just missed a few barriers that could be overcome by program design, and began to accept that nothing in my background and experience, or the literature, was able to adequately bridge this gap. I felt I needed to ask some new questions, questions that start with the low-income women themselves. Is physical activity, the way I understand and promote it, meaningful or even relevant in the lives of these women? If my organized programs are not relevant, what kind of physical activity is relevant? For example, how is physical activity understood by low-income women in the 'every day'? Since so many of the low-income women in my community are also single mothers, do I need to consider how this experience may influence their daily lives in ways that are different than for two-parent families who are also low-income? For low-income single mothers specifically, what practices can be considered to be physical activity, and what do these practices mean to the women as a part of daily life? A s I wrestled with these questions it became clear that I would need to look for the answers outside organized programs because the low-income single mothers that I was 5 concerned about were not in the organized programs in the first place. It also became apparent that looking at physical activity practices outside of the program setting meant looking at them in daily life and in situations where the practice may not be consciously performed as physical activity. While I was not able to locate studies on physical activity that had taken this approach, I was able to find research described in the health literature (Backett & Davison, 1995) that used qualitative research methods to identify and understand health behaviours in the context of lifestyle. Recognizing the importance of investigating the practice of physical activity in daily life, and the potential for qualitative research methods to support this approach, I developed the following research purpose and research questions to guide my exploration of the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. Purpose and Research Questions This research study is about understanding physical activity outside of the program setting and from the perspective of low-income single mothers. Based on the literature and my own experience, I would argue that a better understanding of physical activity in the context of daily life would help to clarify why organized programs are not being utilized by low-income single mothers because it would be based on the physical activity practices these women are currently engaged in. Examining physical activity in the context of daily life could also provide a fresh perspective and new ideas about how physical activity could enhance the health and well-being of low-income women by considering physical activity in a setting that is potentially more accessible and positive than the program context. Wi th this in mind, the purpose of this research project is to explore the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers. Based on this purpose, and the importance of listening to the voices of the women, the following research questions guided the research: 1. What is the physical, social and cultural context in which physical activity is experienced by low-income single mothers? 2. What meanings do these women attach to their physical activity practices in the context of their lifestyle including: work and home responsibilities; leisure and recreation activities; and health and beauty practices? 3. How is physical activity practiced in daily life? 4. What are appropriate methods for studying physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers? These research questions are also based on literature from a range of research traditions including recreation and leisure studies, exercise sciences, health promotion, sociology, psychology, social work and gender studies. This diversity of literature is reviewed in detail in the next chapter organized by a framework I developed for the purpose. What follows here is a brief discussion of some of the essential literature necessary to clarify the concepts that have been included in the purpose and research questions, and delimit the context for this study. Defining the Context Low-income single mothers Although this study is not investigating the connection between individual status and physical activity per se, the literature indicates that socio-economic status and social relationship status are both important for understanding the lived experience of physical activity in the context of daily life (Calnan & Williams, 1991; Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). Therefore income, 7 class and employment status (socio-economic status) are considered in combination with gender, parental/marital and ethnic status (social relationship status) to define and position the research subjects. For the purpose of this research, low-income was based on both 'official ' and 'personal' definitions of poverty. The official, or institutionalized, definition uses the term 'low-income cut-off and 'poverty line' interchangeably to mean an economic measure arbitrarily set at an additional 20 percentage points above what the average Canadian family spends on food, shelter and clothing relative to household income. Based on this, low-income families are those who . spend 56.2% or more of household income on food, shelter and clothing, adjusted for family and community size (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997). The most recent Canadian poverty report also notes that family type is the most important determinant of risk of poverty, with 57.2% of families headed by single parent mothers living in poverty, rising to 83% when only single mothers under 25 are included (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997). In addition to being at a greater risk for poverty, single mothers experience a greater depth of poverty with 41% living on incomes at 70% or less of the poverty line (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997, p. 58). The personal definition of poverty was based on self-identification of low-income as reported by the women in this study. It must be recognized that even though living in poverty is a shared condition that transcends the individual to some extent, and ' low-income' and 'poverty' are used interchangeably for statistical purposes, the experience of being poor can be understood as qualitatively different by each individual. For example, in one study on low-income women accessing physical activity services, researchers found that some women living below the poverty line prefer to identify themselves as low-income rather than poor when asked to describe their situation (Frisby, Crawford & Dorer, 1997). The women in this study were also self-identified as 8 not having paid employment. This distinction is important based on socio-cultural research that suggests women who lack paid employment experience poverty in a qualitatively different way from those women who live below the poverty line but have some form of paid work (Bloch, 1987a). A l l of the women who participated in this research study were defined as low-income and single mothers using both official and personal measures. In the case of single motherhood, the official definition was based on the requirement of the housing project in which they lived that they not be cohabiting with another adult. However, had the official and personal identifications of low-income and single motherhood not corresponded, priority would have been given to the personal definitions of poverty and single parenthood in recognition of the importance of the social and cultural meanings embedded in the experience. A n d while there are considerable methodological problems with social class constructs that w i l l be discussed in the review of the literature, research on various health and leisure practices has provided particular insight into meaning based on class differences in values and beliefs (Calnan & Will iams, 1991; Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). Therefore, social class was also assessed, but using an approach which considers the childhood experience of social class, formal and informal education, and life/work experiences, in order to compensate for the variable relationship low-income single mothers have with paid employment and formal education due to the demands of childcare and poverty. The practice of physical activity The practice of physical activity in daily life can be considered to include both 'lifestyle' activities (described in more detail in the next section), and the more dominant and middle-class 9 definition of physical activity incorporated in exercise, sport, recreation and leisure activities. While exercise and sport are clearly recognizable as physical activity due to the requirements of vigorous physical exertion and some form of physical structure or objective (Coakley, 1994), other forms of physical activity such as recreation and leisure are less easily identified as physical activity. Recreation can be defined as physical activity pursued by groups or individuals during leisure time, although it can also be much broader than physical activity. It is depicted as being voluntary and pleasurable, and providing immediate and inherent satisfaction to the participant (Anderson, 1995). Some theorists suggest that recreation is a social phenomenon while leisure is a human one. "Recreation is different from leisure. It is closely associated with the industrial revolution, it is somewhat culture-bound, it exists in part to achieve broader social purposes (and, perhaps, political purposes), it generates enjoyment, and it occurs as one form of expression during leisure" (Searle & Brayley, 1993, p. 39). In contrast, leisure can be understood as subjective with the perception of 'freedom' central to the experience. However, both recreation and 'free time' are not necessarily leisure. Perhaps the best way to define leisure is "as 'an experience' that occurs within the context of time and activity . . . [tjhinking of leisure as an experience avoids the work/non-work dichotomy and the problem of activity categorization" (Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw & Freysinger, 1989, p. 10). The dominant research approach to physical activity considers the practice of physical activity from the perspective of exercise, sport, recreation and leisure. Although there is only a minimal amount o f research on low-income women within this normative or dominant perspective, the literature suggests that low-income single mothers are less active and face more barriers to participation than other higher-income and partnered women (Dahlgren, 1988; io Henderson et al., 1989; Lenskyj, 1991). Most of this data has been collected in the context of organized programs for recreation and sport. The lack of investigation into physical activity in daily life is the result of this assumption of dominant middle-class values and the tradition of the exercise sciences to focus on training intensity to meet performance and fitness objectives. From a technical perspective, measurement difficulties associated with assessing daily physical activity located in occupational tasks, household chores and incidental activity such as walking have also restricted the consideration of physical activity in daily life (Shephard, 1995). The result is that those activities in which low-income and working-class women engage, within the context of daily life (i.e. walking for transportation, unpaid domestic chores, paid manual labour jobs), have not been considered to be important. For the purpose of this study, physical activity is considered to include exercise, sport and recreation activities, as well as leisure activities (as defined by the research participants) that are not sedentary. However, other non-sedentary and 'lifestyle' practices incorporated in daily, weekly and monthly activities such as occupational tasks performed during paid or unpaid work, household and childcare chores, and other incidental activities such as walking for transportation are also considered to be physical activity. Daily life and lifestyle Understanding the experience of physical activity in daily life can be enhanced by applying the concept of 'lifestyle' as it has emerged from research in the areas of health promotion, sociology and cultural studies. Lifestyle is a construct which refers to a behaviour or set of behaviours and the associated meaning or meanings which are typical for an individual or group. While it is observed as a behaviour, a lifestyle cannot 'exist' outside of the meaning 11 which is attached to it. This concept originated in classical sociology, where it was originally constructed as social differentiation through a combination of structured condition, or 'life chances', and personal choice, or 'life conduct' (Backett & Davison, 1995). In this way, behaviour (which includes physical activity) can be seen not so much as "isolated acts under the autonomous control of the individual, but rather as socially conditioned, culturally embedded, economically constrained patterns of l iv ing" (Green & Kreuter, 1991, p. 12). This study considers lifestyle behaviours or 'patterns of l iv ing ' to include physically active practices related to recreation and leisure. Lifestyle is also assumed to include practices centred around daily life responsibilities and routines such as paid and unpaid work, household chores and childcare, and self-care or beauty and health practices. While these practices incorporate non-traditional and unstructured forms of physical activity within the context of daily life, they may be performed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Meanings of physical activity Getting at 'meaning' necessarily requires a cultural understanding of physical activity, the body and daily life by considering personal attitudes and values in combination with social structures and norms (Turner, 1984; 1992), especially for populations that have been marginalized within the dominant social structures such as is the case for low-income single mothers (Marin et al., 1995). However, investigating the meaning of certain practices is complicated by the fact that the practices may be understood in a way that is not compatible with dominant social and cultural norms. This creates the potential for a power struggle and problems of interpretation between the informant and researcher over appropriate meaning. This is complicated by the fact that language is based on the dominant discourse, making it difficult to 12 ask people to speak about shared social meaning or culture that is not a part of this discourse. A s a result there is always the potential for the necessary language to be unavailable to either the research participant or the researcher. With respect to practice, public practices can be observed and private practices can be described and observed in certain circumstances. However, meanings beyond the dominant social and cultural norms are difficult to access, creating a tension between practice and meaning for both the outside observer and the individual insider. This tension and its' importance has been nicely articulated by a group of sociologists writing about the resources Americans have for making sense of their lives and how their ideas relate to their actions. While we focus on what people say, we are acutely aware that they often live in ways they cannot put into words. It is particularly here, in the tension between how we live and what our culture allows us to say, that we have found both some of our richest insights into the dilemmas our society faces and hope for the reappropriation of a common language in which those dilemmas can be discussed (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler & Tipton, 1985, p. vi i i ) . In an attempt to resolve this tension between meaning and practice, I have given priority to the practices of physical activity in daily life that were observed by me and described by the research participants, as well as to the meanings that were articulated by the low-income single mothers who participated in this study. However, I have added an additional layer of meaning by taking a critical perspective and considering the various conscious, unconscious, and possibly contradictory meanings the research participants may associate with certain practices. A s a result, meaning in this study can be understood to include the values, attitudes and beliefs articulated by the women who participated in this research, as well as my interpretation of their meanings based : on my experience, understanding of social and cultural norms and values, and knowledge of the literature. This is not to say that my interpretation is a more valid or higher level of meaning. In 13 fact, the women challenged both the literature and my own assumptions about what physical activity means in their lives in ways that made me change my understanding, and w i l l hopefully change future interpretations of meaning in the literature. Overview of the Chapters The following chapters describe the research project undertaken to explore the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income women, and to answer the research questions that guided the study. The literature review in chapter two is organized around a framework developed to organize the diverse literatures in a meaningful and comprehensive way. The framework is then used in the final chapter to link the literature and theoretical concepts to the data through the development of analytic concepts for understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. Chapter three describes the qualitative research methods that were employed to collect and analyze the data, including accessing the housing project for low-income single mothers that provided the site for the study, the discussion group and in-depth interviews with three low-income single mothers, the activity logs, the participant observation and the community assessment. The data are presented in chapter four and are organized around three major emergent themes including: i) daily life and the practice of physical activity, ii) physical activity in the context of change, and iii) resources for physical activity in daily life. Finally, chapter five discusses four primary analytic concepts that emerged through the process of layering the organizing framework and the data themes. These analytic concepts include: i) work and leisure, ii) well-being and health, iii) quality of life, and iv) power and control. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications for future research, policy 14 and programs, as well as a brief reflection on what this research may mean to the three women who participated in it, and what it means to me as I contemplate returning to work in the field. 15 C H A P T E R II R E V I E W O F L I T E R A T U R E Organizing Framework The broad and exploratory nature of this study required the review of a wide diversity of literature. This literature helped to determine the purpose of this study and was used to develop the research and interview questions. The challenge in the early stages of this research was determining which literatures and theories would be most useful for the task. In an effort to avoid a shopping-cart full of 'interesting' but unrelated theories and the analytic confusion that would ensue, I developed the organizing framework (Figure 1) to locate the most promising theoretical constructs and their related literatures with respect to each other. The framework is based on the assumption that the individual is central to understanding physical activity in daily life. A s I read the literature I noted approaches to physical activity and other bodily practices that were grounded in daily life, and that considered the relationship between social structure, human agency and these practices. Many of the questions that arose during the data collection made me wonder about the importance of the physical environment and location for physical activity. A s a result I returned to the literature to consider the influence of 'place' on meaning and practice. This framework has evolved tremendously from the original version and I hope w i l l continue to change as other researchers and theorists apply it and improve it through their work. Not only does the framework organize the literature, but it provides some interesting directions from which to question the practice and meaning of physical activity in the daily lives of the low-income single mothers who participated in this research. What follows is a summary of the organizing framework with brief references to the key literatures that were used to inform 16 it. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to a more detailed review of the diverse literatures that speak to each of the components of the framework. The Individual: resources or 'capital' The individual is central to understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. The experience and active creation of lifestyle, place, and power happens at the level of the individual, grounded in social and cultural norms and values. The individual is simultaneously the agent or creator of lifestyle and place, and defined by the larger social structure that determines the style of life and place. A s a human agent, the individual utilizes personal choice and a conceptualization of power based on the ' l ived ' body. As part of the larger social structure, the individual experiences the world through a conceptualization of power that is based largely on the 'social ' body or social class, and the political. Unfortunately, contextual factors such as income, social class, employment, education, gender, ethnicity, parental/marital status and sexual orientation are often viewed as existing outside of the individual actor, as determinants of practice and meaning, as quantifiable and therefore stable, and as a result have become unproblematic to the researcher. However, by centering the individual actor and integrating structure and agency, these factors can be understood as resources that are actively used by the individual. To borrow from Bourdieu (see Harvey & Sparks, 1991; Laberge, 1995; Laberge & Sankoff, 1988), cultural, economic and gender resources can be understood as a form of 'capital' actively used by the individual to generate practices and meanings. A s a result, they must be created by the individual at the same time as they exist outside of the individual, and they must be understood as changeable rather 17 Structure ('public' or chance) Agency ('private' or choice) Social and Cultural Norms and Values Place (ecology of physical activity)-> place and space > individualism resources Meaning and Practice Health Well-being and Power and Control Quality of Life Figure 1 - Organizing Framework: Conceptualizing the Meaning and Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life 18 than stable. This provides a perspective from which to view the active creation of meaning as it is related to the practice of physical activity in the context of daily life. B y articulating the idea of an active tension between structure and agency, this theoretical perspective is able to move beyond the idea that the position of the women in this study (low-income, single mothers) 'determines' their practice of physical activity, at the same time that it contributes to a more sophisticated understanding of the 'barriers' they face. So rather than speak of class, income and gender as the defining context for the women in this study, it may be more helpful to use the notion of cultural, economic and gender capital to understand the lived experiences of these low-income single mothers. The value of this perspective is supported later in the data by the way the women in this study speak of their daily lives. Throughout the interviews they speak of resources they have or do not have, such as time, energy, stamina, equipment, money, and families, and how these resources are managed by them within the constraints of their lives to achieve happiness and well-being for themselves and their children. Blending the concept of resources with capital creates a rich and active context to ground the various theoretical concepts that are relevant to understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity. Lifestyle: behaviour with meaning A s was described earlier, lifestyle can be seen as "socially conditioned, culturally embedded, economically constrained patterns of l iv ing" (Green & Kreuter, 1991, p. 12). Backett and Davison (1995) report that both middle-class and working-class families support this holistic understanding of lifestyle. For the general public, lifestyle is an overarching framework for individual and group life and the point where "givens and chosens" meet. In this way lifestyle is 19 about choice or agency, and chance or structure, at the level of the personal or 'private', and the social or 'public ' . A s a part of lifestyle, physical activity must be understood in this context. The practice of physical activity by the women in this study supports the understanding that physical activity is part of daily life or a "pattern of l iving", and that it is as much about what they feel they must do (duty) as what they choose to do (pleasure). A s a behaviour, physical activity is embedded in daily practices that include household chores and other forms of work, health, self-care and activities related to appearance, recreation and leisure pursuits. In terms of lifestyle, each of these 'behaviours' cannot be understood separately from the meanings that are attached to them. For the research participants in this study, walking children to school because they have no other method of transport has a considerably different meaning from walking rather than driving as a choice to limit air pollution, or as part of an exercise regime. A n d as the women articulate so clearly in the data, the feelings experienced during any type of physical activity greatly influence the quality o f the activity. While not dealing only with physical activity, the leisure constraints literature builds on : the concept o f barriers to participation. The idea o f constraint is useful for understanding the context of daily life because it considers the diversity of women's experiences and the contradictions inherent in individual women's lives (Shaw, 1994). This theoretical perspective incorporates the tension between social structure and human agency, and between public and private. B y recognizing that constraining factors in women's leisure can be negotiated and "resisted", the potential for this to be true in lifestyle practices beyond leisure, such as for household labour, health and beauty is supported. Finally, the health literature has made a contribution to the understanding of lifestyle through research on health behaviours. It is in this literature that the distinction is made between well-being (life enhancing) and health (health enhancing) behaviours, including middle-class values that emphasize the need for balance and avoidance of excess (Backett, 1992). The literature also distinguishes issues of well-being and health from concepts related to quality of life, although this concept is not well developed. However, this theoretical distinction is . important because it describes how well-being implies a subjective perception o f wholeness, in contrast to quality of life that can be understood as having both an objective (personal characteristics, social stability, safety etc.) and subjective component. The subjective component of quality of life is generally accepted as including satisfaction with goals and achievement, in combination with the more temporary and immediate experience of personal happiness (Ffankish et al., 1996). A s a theoretical concept then, lifestyle is important because it draws together the ideas of practice (behaviour), meaning, social structure (public, chance) and human agency (private, choice) to understand how duty, pleasure, constraint, resistance, health, well-being and quality of life, contribute to the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. Place: the ecology of physical activity Although it makes intuitive sense that the physical and social environment is important for determining the quality of the experience o f physical activity in daily life, the link between physical activity and 'place' is rarely made in the literature. However, the health promotion literature has begun to theorize about how areas of low social class are places where clusters of characteristics representing high levels of demands are combined with few resources with which to deal with them (Kaplan, 1'996). The geography of leisure literature has made a further 21 contribution by suggesting that 'space' should be part of the explanation of social processes, not simply regarded as an outcome (Mowl & Towner, 1995). The importance of place has been reinforced in a diversity of literatures that share the common purpose of articulating the linkage between actions and meaning in a holistic way with the purpose of making the world a better and more equitable place. Gallagher (1993) claims that academia has promoted a false dichotomy between the influences of biology and environment . (understood as social setting) and has obscured the link between behaviour and the physical context. She argues that our environments provide important resources to meet the challenges of life and therefore play an important role in our social interactions. According to Gallagher, places need to be understood as environments that are shared with others, and that both provide and require resources (Gallagher, 1993). In many respects this perspective draws on the idea that humans are part of an 'ecological' whole, that each part of our world is linked to the other and to other living things. Bellah et al. (1985) articulate the potential of social ecology to make the complexity of our society visible and to help us understand the inter-relation of the individual, culture, habitat and the daily practices of life. They argue that the cultural norm of individualism requires meaningful work and a lifestyle based on shared leisure and consumption choices to provide meaning and a sense of control to the individual in our society. This has serious implications for ; low-income single mothers who do not generally have meaningful paid work, leisure or the resources to make consumer choices. If the premise that the individual in our society does not have a sense of social ecology is true, practices such as physical activity performed as meaningless work or leisure have the potential to be negative rather than positive experiences and detract from quality of life. 22 The Social Body: constraint and support Power is conceptualized within this organizing framework as the 'social ' body and as the ' l ived ' body. The first concept is based on Bourdieu's theoretical framework of body habitus that mediates between class conditions and structured practices such as lifestyles (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). It is the body that carries the cultural practices of the different classes (Turner, 1992) and is central to the reproduction of power (Harvey & Sparks, 1991). This understanding of class-based power centred around social structure and human agency has been applied by many researchers investigating bodily practices including leisure, sport and health (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988; Hasbrook, 1987; Harvey & Donnelly, 1996; P i l l , Peters & Robling, 1993; Will iams, 1995). This research has articulated some theoretical concepts that are important for understanding the practice of physical activity in daily life. Crawford (1980), writing about the implications of the emergence of a healthist ideology, argues that in the absence of clear societal responsibility for health promotion and health, issues such as diet and anorexia become an individual responsibility, thus subordinating the less privileged in society who do not have the cultural or economic capital of the middle-class to accept this responsibility. The result is that the middle class identify self-control as the key to achieving health and loss of control, or release, becomes a moral failure. The body reproduces this tension between control and release, at the same time as it reproduces the dominant social values and power (Crawford, 1984). The morality of self-control is applied to the dominant notion of physical activity by White, Young and Gillett (1995) when they argue that especially for women, exercise has been transformed through aerobics into a form of body regulation and social control (White et al., 1995). - '. • 23 Calnan and Wil l iams (1991) use this theoretical approach to demonstrate how the meaning of exercise is significantly different between classes, where members of the working classes doubt whether exercise would bring any extra benefit to their lives. This is similar to the analysis by Laberge and Sankoff (1988) who suggest thatthe image of the body is not important to the reproduction of power for working-class women, and as a result participation in exercise is not linked to morality for these women as it is for middle-class women. Glass is also an important theoretical link between the political and social. Ingham (1985) articulates this connection by showing how the consumer-based concept o f lifestyle stigmatizes those people living in poverty, resulting in dependency on the state being equated with moral weakness. A s a theoretical concept, the 'social ' body embraces concerns of class using the framework of social structure and human agency, negotiated through cultural, economic and gender capital. This approach enables an analysis o f bodily practice to highlight the importance of control and release for the lived body, as well as the morality associated with self-control and other resources such as economic and cultural capital. The body and the individual are active in this struggle for social power and are constrained or supported by their access to (or lack of) the necessary resources and social position or habitus. The Lived Body: resistance and conformity This second conception of power is based on Foucault's social theory of the body centred around an analysis o f the process by which individuals are led to think about themselves and to act for themselves. His ideas of discipline and 'micro-powers' are important for an analysis of physical activity in daily life in part because of the weakness of body habitus to adequately address issues of human agency, and in part because of the strength of this theoretical concept to show how the individual is the centre of social production and control (Harvey & Sparks, 1991). Both the 'social ' body and the ' l ived ' body are theoretically about power and overlap nicely with the concepts of 'lifestyle' and 'place' for a rich understanding of physical activity in daily life. However, as two separate conceptions of power they are distinct in many ways and not easily overlapped except at the level of the human agent. This is not to say that they can only be used separately, as in fact many researchers have borrowed from each to create a holistic picture of power and the lived body. In the literature on unemployment among working-class women, the body is shown to be the symbolic representation of the norm of social invisibility and fears of social control experienced through the absence of routines and structures in everyday life for women who work in the home (Bloch, 1987a; Jorgensen, 1987). Beyond symbolic meaning, the body can be used to actively resist socially constructed power and gender relations as has been described in the literature dealing with women's leisure and sport (Birrell & Theberge, 1995; Shaw, 1994). The concept of resistance is carried over into the health behaviour literature that considers consumer and lifestyle issues with respect to health or self-care practices. This literature combines the previously discussed ideology of self-control with the social processes of normalization and problematization, and the operation of the disciplinary gaze (Thompson & Hirschman, 1995). In this context it makes sense that women identify 'exercise' as the most important physical activity, performed with the objective of maintaining function so as to be able to do things for others, and to stay 'presentable' (Saltonstall, 1993). It also makes sense that the body can be a battleground for resistance and the personal experience of a split between the mind and the body (Bloch, 1987b). 25 A s a theoretical concept, the lived body allows us to see how power is created at the level of the individual and how social control is experienced by the body. This creates the potential for both social conformity and resistance represented by the body and bodily practices such as physical activity. Meaning and practice The purpose of the organizing framework is to contextualize the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. The literatures that were used to develop each component of the framework suggested three central themes for meaning and practice. These themes included i) health, ii) well-being and quality of life, and iii) power and control. These themes, with the exception of power and control which is reviewed in a section of its own, are discussed and critiqued within the body of literature below. Discussion of the Literature What follows is a more detailed discussion of the literature based on the framework and organized around the following concepts: i) the individual - addresses issues related to the individual in the organizing framework, ii) the location of physical activity in daily life - speaks to concepts of both lifestyle and place from the organizing framework , iii) power and control -discusses theoretical issues of power and control relevant to the two conceptualizations of power in the framework (the.lived body and the social body), and iv) meaning and practice - illustrates two of the three primary themes (health, quality of life/well-being, power/control) that emerged from the literature and have not yet been addressed, namely health and quality of life/well-being. 26 This discussion of the literature includes a critique of literatures that may be restricting our understanding of the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. Research that supports the need for a greater understanding o f social and cultural norms and values related to the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life is also identified. While the sources of literature come from a range of established research traditions such as health promotion, exercise sciences, sociology, psychology, social work, gender studies, and recreation and leisure studies, it must be recognized that each body of work is not necessarily discrete from the others as they share many concepts and assumptions. However, for ease of presentation, the literature that was reviewed from each body of work is considered primarily within the most relevant component of the organizing framework. The Individual A great deal of the literature that investigates physical activity, health and well-being begins with the individual and asks 'who is active (or healthy) and who is not?', 'can we predict who w i l l be active (or healthy) and who w i l l not?', and finally 'why is this the case and how can we improve things?'. This literature exploring 'individual status', including socio-economic and social relationship issues, has been particularly effective in identifying the gendered power relations that underpin the experience of employment (paid and unpaid) and the family. The socio-economic status of women in Canada generally puts women at a much greater risk than men of experiencing poverty. Women are more likely to be unpaid care givers, low-wage employees, single parents and living alone as older adults.(Doyal, 1995; Ford, 1990; Payne, 1991). The number of single parent families in Canada has doubled in the last 20 years and the majority of these families are headed by women under 25 (83%) (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997). 27 These statistics do not indicate i f these families were previously poor, i f they are likely to remain poor, or how long the duration of poverty is likely to be, although the report does estimate that one in three Canadians w i l l be poor at some time during their working lives (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997, p. 3). These disparities are paralleled in recreational activity where "... the lowest rates of participation are found among the poor and women of child rearing age, many of whom are the same people" (Kidd, 1995). For example, participation in physical activity was twice as high for Canadians with a family income of more than $80,000 (63%), than for those having a family income of less than $20,000 (31%) (Statistics Canada, 1994). Some researchers even argue that physical activity plays an important part in the development of social equity. Participation [in physical activity] is still heavily dependent upon the financial resources and cultural capital which class background brings, structured by gender ethnicity and race. N o challenge is more important to the realization of genuine progress and human liberation than that of providing full social equity in the opportunities for physical activity necessary for a healthy, pleasurable and productive life (Kidd, 1995). The best insurance against poverty is a good job, but women, especially single mothers who must divide their time between work and childcare, tend to have part-time jobs in the service industries i f they have work at all (Bloch, 1987a; Jorgensen, 1987). Not surprisingly, the service industries have the highest poverty rates and managerial positions have the lowest (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997, p. 39). This statistical picture underscores the significant influence single-motherhood has on the likelihood of experiencing a lack of regular paid employment and of poverty. The significance of a lack of paid employment and the role of motherhood in addition to poverty is supported by socio-cultural research that found not being in paid employment changes the individual knowledge of ' s e l f (Bloch, 1987a) and that children are very 28 important for influencing role-model behaviours of low-income single mothers (Frisby et al., 1997). Determinants of physical activity and health. The determinants of physical activity and the determinants of health literatures use individual status to search for relationships between status factors such as income, gender, ethnicity etc. and participation in physical activity and level of health. For example, in both the determinants of physical activity and health literatures, low socio-economic status has been considered a strong determinant of inactivity (Ford, Merrit, Heath, Powell , Washburn, Kriska & Haile, 1991; K i n g et al., 1992 ) and poor health, especially for women (Dan, 1994; Ford, 1990; Payne, 1991; Popay, Bartely & Owen, 1993). However, researchers have had considerable difficulty clarifying the nature of this relationship because other factors also contribute to low levels of physical activity and poor health. These factors include illness and disability (Dahlgren, 1988; Henderson et al., 1995; K i n g et al., 1992; Ross & Chloe, 1994; Smale & Shaw, 1993; Verhoef & Love, 1992), obesity and smoking (Hawkes & Holm, 1993; K i n g et aL, 1992), being a visible minority (Floyd, Shinew, McGuire & Noe, 1994; Ford et al., 1991; Kapl in , Lazarus, Cohen & Leu, 1991; K i n g et al.; 1992), and having a low level of education (Hawkes & Holm, 1993; K i n g et al., 1992). With respect to social relationship factors such as gender, ethnicity, parental/ marital status and sexual orientation, a determinants approach to physical activity has generally demonstrated that women who are members of a visible minority, single mothers and/or lesbians wi l l be much less active than other women. Power relations determined by the social construction of gender and ethnicity constrain opportunities for girls and women to be active ' ' 29 (Birrell & Theberge, 1994; Hal l , 1996; White et al., 1995). Lesbian women experience restrictions to their participation due to homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality in the sport world (Griffin, 1992; Lenskyj, 1990; Sykes, 1996) in a similar way some girls and women are restricted by the image of lesbianism associated with some sports. Wi th respect to family status, girls from single parent families are less likely to be active, possibly due to time and economic constraints, as are women with children regardless of whether they are single parents or not (Verhoef& Love, 1992; Smale & Shaw, 1993). A s for socio-economic status, these social relationship factors have been considered to 'determine' participation levels in physical activity but the nature of the relationship between social relationship factors and participation levels of physical activity has not been completely understood. This may be because the determinants approach has treated individual, environmental and social factors as discrete dimensions and distinct from actual experiences (Dyck, Reid & Frisby, 1997). The strength of a determinants approach is in the identification of potentially important factors for understanding why some people are healthy and active and others are not. However, it is necessary for future research to consider the inter-relation of the various determinants and how they are experienced by the individual. A strategy that is relational and considers the underlying social structures, norms and values w i l l be the most effective for getting at the meaning and practice of physical activity for marginalized women. This need for research to focus on a relational analysis that is historical, socially constructed, culturally defined and examines power structures is supported in the feminist literature. Barriers to equality are not removed simply through a process of identification ... in the end, the power relations that constitute racism and sexism, or other ' isms' are rarely confronted (Hall, 1996, p. 12). 30 Social class. The literature on social class has made an important contribution to understanding the social context with respect to socio-economic status, income and employment. In an attempt to capture subtle distinctions between concepts such as poverty, low-income, and working poor, as well as to differentiate between the 'effects' of economic status and cultural norms and values, researchers have struggled with 'socio-economic status' and 'social class' constructs. Both socio-economic status and social class can be understood as social structural variables that incorporate family income measures with occupation, home and/or car ownership, and education. However, the concept of social class consists of two distinct categories of variables: those associated with material goods and services, and those associated with values, beliefs and practices (Bottomore, 1956, cited in Hasbrook, 1987). Both of these concepts are closely related to 'lifestyle', a concept that adds the dimension of individual choice and w i l l be explored in more detail later. One study in the area of organized sport (Hasbrook, 1987) suggests that life chances or economic opportunity may play a larger role than lifestyle in explaining the relationship between sport participation and social class among female adolescents. Lifestyle or social-psychological opportunity appears to play the smaller role, according to Hasbrook (1987), because a family's social class is indicative of its members' life chances. Thus, the higher a family's social class, the greater its members' capacities are for possession and access to material goods and services. However, a social class-based approach is not widely used within the sport and recreation research tradition. Harvey and Donnelly (1996) suggest that this is a problem and argue that social class should be a central concern for sport and physical activity researchers because of the increase in the prevalence of poverty both nationally and internationally, and because of the importance of class as a determinant of participation in high school competitive sport and of 31 health. They suggest that sport researchers should investigate the distribution of power by utilizing cultural studies research that emphasizes problems of class. Our contention is that social class is a determinant of inequality which has to be studied in conjunction with gender and race (Harvey & Donnelly, 1996, p. 4). In most studies examining the relationship between health or quality of life and social class, social class is assessed using some combination of educational attainment in combination with a family composite for socio-economic status that may include education, and consumer variables such as employment status, type of employment or occupational class, housing tenure and car ownership (Arber, 1991; Dahl, 1991; Osier, 1993; P i l l et al., 1993). However, house ownership, or any other arbitrary measure, merely represents other factors in a social situation such as income, employment and stability. Unfortunately, the specific aspects of social circumstances and the environment that might account for certain health behaviours and observed variations in reported health behaviours among members of a similar social group have not been determined. Different approaches, using more in-depth and qualitative strategies, may therefore be needed to reach a better understanding of the constraints on health- -related behaviour within particular social groups (Pil l et al., 1993, p. 1143). This inability of the class construct to consider 'difference'within social groups has also been criticized by researchers in the area of physical activity, health and women's studies. For example, several research studies indicate that the position of low-income (or lower socidT economic status, or working class) individuals, is complicated or confounded by ethnicity and ability since visible minority and disabled people are more likely to also be low-income (Ford et al., 1991; K i n g et al., 1992). The traditional practice of defining social class by the material circumstances of the family unit is also problematic for women in particular. In this case, the occupational class of the male head of the household is assumed to be a proxy for the cultural, social and material conditions of the family. Critics of this perspective suggest that this is not particularly useful for understanding class in relation to women, who may not have equal access to resources within the family and who are more likely to be working within the home as the primary caregiver, especially i f they are single parents (Dahl, 1991). The heavy reliance on occupational status to determine social class also makes it difficult to classify individuals who are unemployed or not in paid employment, many of whom are also women (Arber, 1996). The grouping of all low-income single mothers together in a social class defined by income regardless of the parenting arrangement, by occupation of the father regardless of the employment or education history of the mother, and by home ownership regardless of lifestyle, is not able to adequately capture the social and cultural implications of difference within social classes. Researchers must consider that "the individual differences that exist among groups of women or among groups of men may be far greater than the differences between men and women" (Henderson, 1994). Recent research has turned to feminist social and cultural analyses to explain diversity among apparently homogenous groups. For example, Laberge and Sankoff (1988) found that there are clear differences between women within a 'shared' social class where some women consider regular physical activity to be part of a certain ethic or custom, while for others it is regarded as a waste of time. However, this is not to say that the condition of being a woman and single mother, low-income, not in paid employment and receiving social assistance is solely an individual experience. The responsibilities of motherhood, a lack o f access to financial resources and a lack of paid employment are in some respects shared experiences regardless of cultural and social context. For example, working-class women with a steady, i f limited, family income above the " . 33 poverty line w i l l be able to participate in leisure activities less accessible to working-class women living in poverty or low-income women dependent on social assistance, regardless of social and cultural values. The value of socio-cultural research such as that done by Laberge and Sankoff (1988), is that the potential for a shared experience of a group is recognized and is not limited to economic capital, but may include cultural capital and the social construction of gender. This suggests that the state-defined notion of poverty as a low-income cut-off line measured in dollars is not particularly helpful in understanding the class-based experience of work and leisure, and therefore choices and structural constraints with respect to physical activity. Social class, incorporating social and cultural values as well as economic status, is an important concept for understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity, although researchers have yet to establish an inclusive measure. It could be argued that social class is especially relevant to understanding physical activity since physical activity is simultaneously a part of daily life that cuts across all classes, and a practice that has various forms and meanings depending on the social group. Some of these theoretical challenges related to social class, but separate from measurement and determinant issues, w i l l be addressed when the sociological literature is reviewed in the section on the location of physical activity in daily life. Location of physical activity in daily life This section on physical activity in daily life locates physical activity in two ways. The first is related to lifestyle practices and considers primarily the leisure, active l iving and lifestyle literatures. The second way physical activity is located in daily life is by the geographic 34 environment or place. This perspective considers literature primarily from social geography and social ecology. Leisure constraints. The majority of sport and recreation research has not considered the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life from the perspective of women themselves, especially marginalized women such as those who are visible minorities and low-income. However, there is evidence that this is changing, particularly in the field of leisure studies, where researchers are considering individual experiences and the potential for certain practices to be understood as resistance to socially imposed constraints (Shaw, 1994; Theberge & Birrel l , 1994). Although leisure research does not focus on physical activity exclusively, it does a better job of considering physical activity in daily life than the sport literature does, and it provides a useful lens for viewing the experience of physical activity in daily life. In a review of the literature dealing with gender, leisure and constraints, Shaw (1994) argues for an incorporation of three different theoretical perspectives in a broader framework that "may allow for both the diversity of women's experiences and the contradictions inherent in individual women's lives to be taken into account" (Shaw, 1994, p. 9). While much of the determinants literature addresses female gender, single parenthood and low socio-economic status as factors that generally constrain participation in physical activity, the determinants approach is not able to consider the contradictions inherent in the experience of everyday life. The first and most dominant approach in the leisure literature focuses on the constraints that women face in terms of leisure. This research emphasizes the ways in which women are disadvantaged within a patriarchal society, and how this subordinate status limits access to and 35 enjoyment of leisure. M u c h of North American research fits within this perspective and it is clearly the dominant one in leisure studies (Shaw, 1994). Most of this research does not argue that women have no leisure, only that they have less leisure time and face more constraints than do men. Some of the most important barriers that have been identified by research using this approach include lack of time, economic constraints, lack of opportunities, and a lack of a sense of entitlement to leisure (Dattilo et al., 1994). The implications of this perspective include the need to remove constraints, and that to achieve equality in leisure, social equality must also be achieved. This is supported by recent investigations that demonstrate that constraints do not link directly with levels of leisure participation and that removal df constraints is unlikely to have a substantial effect as long as underlying social structures remain the same (Kay & Jackson, 1991, cited in Dattilo et al., 1994). Leisure itself is seen as an inherently positive experience and not problematic except as it is constrained (Shaw, 1994). The second approach looks at leisure activity as potentially constraining in and of itself. This less common perspective has been focused on "the gendered nature of recreational participation and how traditional, stereotypical activities act to reinforce and reproduce oppressive gender relations" (Shaw, 1994, p. 9). These stereotypes are supported by the media as well as by the nature of activities society deems to be appropriate for both men and women. Some forms of leisure participation (for example family activities) may result from social pressure to conform. But even participation in freely chosen and enjoyable activities may act to reinforce traditional notions of femininity thus constraining women in other aspects of their lives (Shaw, 1994, p.14). The third and emerging approach is one that sees women's leisure as offering possibilities for resistance. When leisure is seen in this way, women's participation in activities, especially non-traditional activities [such as participating in sport or using leisure time 36 which is separate and distinct from family leisure], can be seen to challenge restrictive social roles (Shaw, 1994, p. 9). Because leisure is based on concepts of personal choice, control and self-determination, resistance through leisure can be linked to the notion of 'leisure as empowerment' (Henderson & Bialeschki, 1991, cited in Shaw, 1994). In this way, leisure can be seen as a challenge to gender-based constraints and may impact gender equality in a broader sense. This approach, that recognized the theoretical structure-agency debates of the time, was developed in the 1980's. According to Scraton (1994), there has been little significant leisure research on women or gender relations since that time, possibly because of the current debate around "the postmodern condition creating what could be termed a 'new' academic malestream" (Scraton, 1994, p. 253). In summary, Shaw (1994) suggests that an integration of these perspectives be based on three guiding principles: recognition of the contradictory aspects of leisure in women's lives; recognition of the different ways constraining factors are associated with women's leisure; and recognition of the different ways resistance can be associated with women's leisure. With respect to resistance in particular, Shaw suggests that: [a] better understanding of the kinds of activities, situations and socio-cultural contexts which are associated with resistance rather than constraint is important. Is resistance associated with non-traditional activities only, or is it the idea of choice or self-determination that is more crucial? H o w important are the notions of entitlement or empowerment in the process of resistance? In what ways, and under what circumstances do women resist by negotiating constraints on their leisure choices? (Shaw, 1994, p. 19). Active living. One of the few attempts by government policy makers to bridge the gap between organized physical activity and daily life can be seen in the 'active l iving initiative' that has been promoted in Canada since 1986. The concept of 'active l iv ing ' developed out of a policy 37 perspective which understands physical activity as more than physical fitness. Starting from a definition of fitness as "a state of total well-being of the individual — physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social" (Health & Welfare Canada, 1986), researchers, practitioners and policy makers at the 1986 Canadian Summit on Fitness defined active l iving as "a way of life in which physical activity is valued and integrated into daily life" (Government of Canada, 1992, cited in Swedburg & Izso, 1994, p. 33). According to Health Canada (Swedburg & Izso, 1994), active living is based on three principles; it is individual, social and inclusive. The objective of ah active l iving approach is to encourage and support personal choices to live actively in daily life. Active l iving may include sport and exercise, but traditional and structured forms of physical activity are not necessary to live actively. This policy perspective has been accompanied by a shift in priorities from fitness for health to a broader interpretation of health by many recreation practitioners, but has not been supported by research into the meaning and practice of an active lifestyle that incorporates non-traditional and unstructured forms of physical activity. Many recreation programmers are excited by the potential of an active living approach to improve health and well-being because it speaks to a future "where being active is the norm, not the exception, and that the simple joys of moving w i l l transcend the mere pursuit of improved.strength, endurance, or a more desirable weight or shape" (Active L iv ing Canada, 1993, cited in Swedburg & Izso, 1994, p. 32). However, this approach has not been accepted by the general public, nor a great number of recreation practitioners. It is also not clear how this type of approach to physical activity can be supported and promoted using a traditional organized program approach. 38 Lifestyle. Lifestyle is a construct that refers to a behaviour or set of behaviours and the associated meaning or meanings that are typical for an individual or group. A lifestyle behaviour cannot exist outside of the meaning that is attached to it and is therefore best understood as a pattern of living that is socially conditioned, culturally embedded and economically constrained (Green & Kreuter, 1991). Unfortunately, simplistic operationalizing of lifestyle by researchers has made it difficult to capture the complex inter-relationships between structurally and environmentally based chances, personal choices and cultural contexts with respect to health-behaviours and well-being. For instance it has proved easier within existing research traditions to address relationships between social structural variables, such as socioeconomic status, and the personal behavioural components of lifestyles than it has to understand the culturally based meanings underpinning such relationships (Backett & Davison, 1995, p. 631). The separation of behaviour from meaning has led to the misuse of lifestyle in the name of social marketing and health promotion where lifestyle is used to describe patterns of consumption and health behaviours "with little reference to the social and cultural contexts in which they are embedded and given meaning" (Backett & Davison, 1995, p. 631). In contrast, lifestyle is used by the general public in a more holistic way. In two separate qualitative studies on daily health behaviour, Backett and Davison (1995) report that according to both their middle-class and working-class respondents, lifestyle "appears to refer to an overarching framework within which individual and group life is set. Lifestyle is the point where givens and chosens meet" (Backett & Davison, 1995, p. 631). In lay usage, "the concept seems also more grounded in historical, environmental and biographical contents" (Ibid., p. 632). For example, a respondent in one of the studies described how life became more home-based when 39 the children were born, while another mentioned how the closing of the local mine had changed domestic patterns (Backett & Davison, 1995). When describing the quality and mode of life, the participants in these two studies use lifestyle to mean an interaction between structural givens (i.e. the new baby) and daily routines (i.e. more home-based activities) that have at least some element of choice. The difficulty in the discrepancy between the theoretical concept of lifestyle and the experience of l iving a certain style of life is related to the idea of 'choice'. For example, with respect to physical activity, what is considered rational by the health or recreation practitioner may be different from what is considered reasonable to the individual. "The crucial difference between [what is rational and what is reasonable] revolves around the admission of culture to the formal processes of decision making and action" (Backett & Davison, 1992, p. 56). Theoretically, what is rational is free of culture and appropriate in any social context. However, the idea of reasonable behaviour depends upon Culturally specific beliefs and perceptions about the world and may even differ between groups in the same culture. It follows from this analytical distinction that i f an action or intent of behaviour is examined in its appropriate cultural context, then its 'reasonableness' w i l l become evident. Behaviours relevant to health should therefore be investigated in terms of the images of acceptability and appropriateness which they imply for the lay population (Backett & Davison, 1992, p. 56). Understanding physical activity in daily life requires a consideration of lifestyle and what is reasonable from the perspective of the individual. [T]he health related behaviour of any individual is the product of a complex interweaving of biographical, social and cultural threads. A n y one person's pattern of activity in relation to their diet, drinking, smoking and exercise is situated in a framework unique to that individual (Backett & Davison, 1995, p. 637). 40 A t the same time, however, research has also demonstrated that there are social patterns related to physical activity and health behaviours (Backett & Davison, 1995; Calnan & Will iams, 1991; Laberge & Sankoff, 1988) such that the shared social and cultural context must also be understood within the dimensions of paid and unpaid work and home responsibilities, leisure and recreation opportunities, and health and beauty practices. The implication of this for physical activity in daily life is that it must be understood as a culturally based concept about what is appropriate behaviour, closely related to particular social and structural contexts. One of the few studies of lifestyle and physical activity in daily life to consider social and cultural factors was done by Laberge and Sankoff (1988) with a group of . francophone, married, or previously married, women in Quebec. Their results indicate that the primary 'body practice' characteristics of working-class women (defined by socio-economic status) include relative inactivity and a predominant focus on external and cosmetic appearance (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). B y examining a range of body practices including exercise, diet, housework, body care, games, and entertainment among others, the researchers were able to identify the different perceptions that members of social classes have of various leisure activities and their levels of participation. Laberge and Sankoff (1988) demonstrate that working-class women do not consider physical activity a bodily practice and do not share the sense that participation is linked to morality as it is for middle-class, women. These beliefs are supported by the type of work they do, as well as by their shared social community and relationship with their body. The relative absence of participation in physical activities by working-class women, as defined by the norms, may be due to the fact that they see no advantage in i t . . . the contribution that participation in physical activities could make to changing the conditions of their lives is probably quite small. Thus their material conditions of existence would encourage a sort of 'realistic' or 'crit ical ' awareness when they look at the hygienic (health), professional (physical 41 appearance and 'keeping trim' are not keys to success in manufacturing or factory work), and aesthetic (physical activity does not change one's external traits) benefits that physical activity could bring them" (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988, p. 285). In contrast, middle-class women depend on their image for their social and professional 'success' and equate being overweight with laziness. The authors suggest that this illustrates a 'working-class realism' where these working-class women understand what they should look like, but see no possibility of correcting the 'problem' of their appearance that may differ from the beauty ideal (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). This socio-cultural approach to bodily practices provides considerable insight into the relationship between social class conditions and lifestyle, especially for working-class women. However, it is not clear from this study i f these perceptions of bodily practices would be shared by women who are low-income and not in paid employment. For another perspective on lifestyle, health behaviour research done by Backett and Davison (1992 and 1995) with middle-class families highlights the fact that knowledge and beliefs about health are not necessarily translated into practice. A concern for health is simply one among many competing sets of priorities, including social and moral factors, that affect daily behaviours (Backett, 1992). For the middle-class, excesses of either health fanaticism or disregard for health are considered equally problematic. Thus in lay ideology 'life enhancing' behaviours are not necessarily seen as being compatible with those defined as 'health enhancing' ... the use of concepts such as balance and avoidance of excess were important both as pragmatic behavioural guidelines and as legitimations of unhealthy behavioural lapses (Backett, 1992, p. •. 272). ' Decisions about how to achieve an appropriate balance depend on the social and cultural context, as well as the individual's progression through the lifecourse (Backett & Davison, 1992 and 1995). •42 There has only been a small amount of lifestyle health research that focuses specifically on low-income individuals. In a recent study of households from differing socio-economic circumstances, Calnan and Will iams (1991) found that irrespective of social and economic circumstances, matters of health rarely surfaced in people's descriptions of their lives and neither did health concerns in the context of behaviour. However, exercise did appear to have a different social meaning according to socio-economic position. According to Calnan and Will iams (1991), working-class respondents see physical activity as closely linked to the tasks, activities and duties involved in carrying out daily vocational and domestic roles, and not related to recreation and leisure-time activities as it is for middle-class respondents. These differences seem to correspond to differences in perception of health in general, where working-class groups conceptualize health in negative terms as the absence of disease, while upper social classes conceive of health in more personalised, positive and abstract terms. This suggests that exercise as both a health-directed (i.e. purposeful exercise performed to improve health) and health-related (i.e. walking to do errands because other transportation is not available) behaviour has differential social meaning according to social position. Certain activities such as deliberate, physical exercise, were seen to be an irrelevance as there was considerable doubt expressed by working-class respondents about whether it would bring any extra benefits to their lives ... this might reflect a general scepticism or rejection of official messages about health as well as other matters (Calnan & Will iams, 1991, p. 528). Place. The second concept used in the organizing framework to locate physical activity in daily life is the idea of geographic location or 'place'. The importance of conceptualizing location became apparent during the research as the significance of the 'artificial' environment of the housing project where the research participants lived emerged. A s Gallagher (1993) argues, 43 academia has promoted a false dichotomy between the influences of biology and environment (narrowly interpreted as social setting), that has obscured the synchrony between behaviour and environment. While different people prefer different places, "our responses to life vary closely with our ability to meet the challenges it poses, and ... our environments play an important role in these interactions" (Gallagher, 1993, p. 171). According to Gallagher, "you can't just think in terms of places, but of what they require and with whom you share them" (Gallagher, 1993, p. 175). The importance of the environment for understanding the experience of social class is emphasized in the socio-environmental and social geography literature (Kaplan, 1996; M o w l & Towner, 1995). B y using area measures of equity of income distribution and of the social environment as factors that themselves exert an important influence on health, Kaplan (1996) found that areas of low social class are high-strain areas. These high-strain areas contain clusters of characteristics that represent high levels of demands with few resources to deal with them. Examples of these demands include: daily activity which is hard, repetitive and requires being able to move quickly; an unsafe neighbourhood; having been a crime victim in the last year; poor health; inadequate money for food, medical care and prescriptions; types of stores; and availability of quality food (Kaplan, 1996). The importance of area is further supported by geography of gender and humanistic geography literature that suggests "space should be considered as an active participant in social processes; not just the outcome, but part of the explanation" (Mowl & Towner, 1995, p. 1.10). It seems logical that this would be especially important for research related to physical activity simply because of the physical nature of both 'activity' and 'place'. Based on this, it is somewhat surprising that the conceptualization of place has riot yet been explicitly applied to the 44 meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. More work needs to be done to understand the multiple ways the experience of social class impacts health and what intermediary role physical activity may play in the relationship. Progress w i l l require considerably more data collection on the daily experiences of individuals, on the material and symbolic demands that challenge them, on personal and community resources available to meet these challenges, and on the macroeconomic forces that affect both the individual and community (Kaplan, 1996, p. 518)! The idea that humans are closely linked to their physical environment is not a new one, . but it has not received a great deal of attention with respect to behaviour. In her writing on how surroundings shape thoughts, emotions and actions, Gallagher (1993) synthesizes a huge range of literature crossing many disciplines in order to demonstrate the importance of including the physical environment in any understanding of individual behaviour. Throughout history, people of all cultures have assumed that environment influences behavior. N o w modern science is confirming that our actions, thoughts, and feelings are indeed shaped not just by our genes and neurochemistry, history and relationships, but also by our surroundings (Gallagher, 1993, p. 12). Gallagher (1993) argues that while each person is influenced, by the environment, effects vary according to what the environment 'means' to the individual and how much control the individual feels over her or his own actions. For example, writing about city life, Gallagher notes that occupants of low-rise apartment buildings designed to be personal with small semipublic yards and built on a 'real home' model felt more territorial and neighbourly than those who lived in tower apartments. A n d while the book does not address implications for physical activity specifically, Gallagher notes that both leisure and the natural environment are . very important for determining quality of life. Being absorbed in natural surrounding seems to increase our chances for ' f low' . . . leisure is a serious business that ought to be taken more seriously because it helps 45 us gratify higher needs that are hard to meet in more restrictive circumstances (Kaplan, 1989, cited in Gallagher, 1993, p. 210). In many respects this perspective draws on the idea that humans are part of an 'ecological' whole, that each part of our world is linked to the other and to other l iving things. Bellah, Madsen and Sullivan (1985) in a sociological study on American culture and the implications of individualism, also emphasize the inter-relation of the individual, culture and habitat by drawing on the concept of social ecology. This perspective has the potential to make the complexity and inter-dependence of society visible and to help make sense of the links between culture and the daily practices of life. The study of ecology draws on numerous disciplines to ask the general question, H o w do living things, including human beings, exist in relation to one another in their common habitat... ecology as a science has close connections to ecology as a philosophy and as a social movement.. . [they are not] identical . . . [but] there is no way to keep them separate, since every ecological 'fact' has ethical significance (Bellah, 1985, p. 283-84). B y making the link between lifestyle, work and a personal sense of meaning, this study makes an important contribution to the understanding of daily life. The authors argue that in the North American, culture of individualism it is not clear what the free and individual self is free for. Meaning in life becomes an individual value rather than a value based on a sense of social ecology. Our culture does not give us much guidance as to how to f i l l the contours of this autonomous, self-responsible self, but it does point to two important areas. One of these is work . . . the other area is the lifestyle enclave (Bellah et a l , 1985, p. 83). A s a result, it is meaningful work and a lifestyle based on shared leisure with 'like-minded' others in the community and consumption choices that provide meaning and a sense of control to the individual in our society. I would argue that this has serious implications for low-income 46 single mothers who do not generally have meaningful paid work, leisure or the resources to make consumer choices. If work and lifestyle provide a sense of meaning for the individual in our society, physical activity practices performed as meaningless work or inadequate leisure time have the potential to be negative rather than positive experiences. It is likely that the experience of physical activity in this context would detract from a sense of control and personal meaning. Social power and individual control Issues of social power and individual control are important to this study in part because : the focus is on a group of marginalized people who hold little social power, in part because of the power dynamic that is present in the relationship between the researcher and participant, and in part because of the social and cultural construction of meaning. Power and control have been implicit, and often explicit, in the preceding discussion of the location of the individual and the practice of physical activity in the social, cultural and physical context, particularly with respect to lifestyle and leisure. Because meaning is socially and culturally constructed, the power dynamics embedded in this construction become important for understanding meaning and practice. Power and control have been.made explicit in the framework where they are organized around two conceptualizations: that of the ' l ived ' body and that of the 'social ' body. However, this distinction between the private and the public is somewhat artificial as power and control are both created and experienced at the level of the individual. The advantage of using two conceptualizations of power is that it becomes possible to address the tension between human agency and social structure, two theoretical constructs useful for understanding power and 47 control. A diversity of literatures w i l l be explored here that speak to social and cultural norms and values with consideration of implications for physical activity in daily life. Human agency and the lived body. Turner (1992) suggests that the concept of human agency is central to an understanding of the embodied subject. The idea of a human 'agent' requires a knowledgeable, conscious and intentional actor, at the same time as it is dependent on an embodied individual occupied with body-maintenance practices (cleaning, washing, grooming, presenting, disciplining, disguising, stimulating) that dominate the daily routines of social life. There is a great deal of literature that considers the implications of culture and society for the ' l ived body' through the examination of topics such as sexuality, sport, aging, leisure and consumerism (Featherstone, Hepworth & Turner, 1991; Turner, 1984). However this literature is relatively underdeveloped with respect to understanding physical activity in daily life. .• Work on the sociology of the body in medicine is particularly concerned with questions of agency and structure, most notably regarding the debates about what constitutes a disease and the idea of voluntarism or self-inflicted illness in the causation of human disease (Caplan et al., 1981, cited in Turner, 1992). The tension between,nature/society and action/intention highlights the importance of the body as an organizing principle. B y focusing on the body, researchers are able to integrate an analysis of human problems that are essentially grounded in our embodiment. The sociology of the body enables us more clearly to understand the relationship between illness and a loss of identity, the psychological transformation of personhood which often results from major illness, and the importance of body-image to well-being. In other words, the sociology of the body represents a major counter-position to the medical model and to reductionism in sociobiology because in the concept of embodiment, we can break out of the dualism of the Cartesian legacy [mind/body division] ... (Turner, 1992, p. 167). 48 For example, this approach allows us to understand how dietary science has extended rational control over social classes, and how anorexia is related to a loss of speech and social voice (Turner, 1992). In a paper about healthism and the medicalization of everyday life, Crawford (1980) recognizes that "the symbol of health in the emerging healthist ideology is most compatible with a system of domination based on the therapeutic and personal achievement of well-being" (Crawford, 1980, p. 383). Thus, health issues such as diet and anorexia necessarily become an individual responsibility in the absence of a clear societal responsibility for, or commitment to, health promotion. The end result is that those most able to make individual adjustments are more likely to be the middle class (Crawford, 1980). This implicates physical activity, understood as a health behaviour, in the power relations that subordinate the less privileged in society. Social theory of the body demonstrates that the problem of well-being is both individual and social, and therefore ultimately political. Crawford (1980) suggests that: [The separation of the subjective and objective] serves the interests of domination. The failure of healthist ideology to treat individual behavior, attitudes, and emotions as socially constructed reproduces the disablement fostered by medical ideology and the ideology of individualism in general. Instead of approaching the complex inter-relationship of individual characteristics, choices, and larger social structure, healthism promotes a new moralism (Crawford, 1980, p. 384-385). Therefore, it is not sufficient to concentrate only on individual behaviour to understand a health behaviour. A s is noted by Turner (1992), a cultural understanding of the social body is also required: In order to comprehend this everyday world, or life-world, it appears to me that a sociology of the body is a necessary condition for understanding everyday routines, conditions and requirements (Turner, 1992, p. 3). 49 Most of the research dealing with female embodiment and physical activity is related to representations of the athletic female body. Feminist media analyses have emphasized the inadequate representation of women in sport and the trivializing of women's sport accomplishments. This research has emphasized the sexualization of aerobic exercise and fitness to promote obj edification, fragmentation and heterosexualization, as well as the fear of the loss of womanhood (Birrell & Theberge, 1994). A t the same time, however, researchers have recognized that participation in sport is also an opportunity for women to resist the control of dominant groups and to be empowered; The process of control is never complete. Subordinated groups do not merely step aside and allow dominant groups to work their w i l l on them. Rather these relations are actively challenged, contested, and sometimes transformed (Birrell & Theberge, 1994, p. 356). Power and control are also important themes in some of the health behaviour research that focuses on consumer, image and lifestyle issues with respect to health or self-care practices in daily life. Using what they describe as poststructuralist interpretive procedures, Thompson and Hirschman (1995) identified three themes that are illustrated across a range of consumer experiences and body-focused perceptions. These three process-oriented themes include: the ideology of self-control; the social processes of normalization and problematization; and the operation of the disciplinary gaze. Their results show that body image is dependent on social relationships and cultural norms. [Body image] characterizes the perceptions a consumer has of his/her body, and these perceptions are conditioned by a field of social relationships, cultural ideals, normative prescriptions, and moralistic meanings regarding self-control and discipline. The social world in which each consumer is embedded operates to reinforce this system of bodily meanings and practices ... to be thinner, more toned, less gray, and less wrinkled, and to hide a variety of imperfections are acts of self-care that serve to discipline the body that has, without conscious consent, deviated from valued cultural norms of appearance (Thompson & Hirschman, 1995, p. 150). 50 This research concludes that the postmodern concept of a consumer outside of the constraints of culture and history is at odds with a self-understanding structured by long-standing cultural narratives regarding the meanings of the body (Thompson & Hirschman, 1995). A s a bodily practice physical activity is therefore reinforced by body-focused perceptions in the social world. Research focused on daily life and health practices has also identified the body as problematic to understanding health behaviour. In a study of white, middle-class men and women, Saltonstall (1993) found that the general sharing of similar ideas about what constitutes health dissipated into gender specific forms when everyday.actions were considered (Saltonstall, 1993). M e n spoke of their bodies as though their bodies 'belonged' to them, while women "generally did not use the language of ownership when talking about their bodies, but rather referred to their bodies as though their bodies had a momentum or subjectiveness of their own" (Saltonstall, 1993, p. 9). The cultural notion of difference about what constitutes health for men. • and women seems to be at odds with the medical notion of a universal human body. Physical activity was identified as important by both men and women, but men focused on sport while women focused on exercise. Women seemed more concerned with maintaining function and capacity in order to be able to 'do for others' as well as to stay 'presentable', rather than to enhance capacity as reported by men. Thus, health is not a universal fact, but is a constituted social reality, constructed through the medium of the body using the raw materials of social meaning and symbol. . . health actions are political actions enacted via the body which legitimate or challenge norms and ideas of the social body (Saltonstall, 1993, p. 12). Physical activity as a health behaviour is therefore implicated in the political process of self-definition and socially constructed reality. 51 This conception and application of power via the human agent has been effectively theorized and articulated in the work of the French social theorist Michel Foucault. Some of the most important contributions to social theory of the body centre around his analysis of the process by which individuals are led to think about themselves and to act for themselves, including his theory of discipline and his conception of 'micro-powers' where the individual is the locus of the social production of power (Harvey & Sparks, 1991). Harvey and Sparks (1991) describe Foucault's understanding of power as one where: [Power is] fundamentally relational, which is to say power is expressed in the multiplicity of day-to-day relations of people with social institutions, discourse, and other people. These concrete relations of power underlie human experience and are not reducible to other relationships (for example, economic, gender, and knowledge relationships) (Harvey & Sparks, 1991, p. 166). A s a result, the individual is the centre of social production and control, and power rises in a capillary fashion from below as expressed in the meaning and practice of social relations. According to Foucault, the state has a significant influence on the social formation through which power is coalesced but is not itself a source or determinant of power (Harvey & Sparks, 1991). This concept of micro-power situated in the individual is important for understanding the theory of 'discipline' as developed by Foucault. The individual is an embodied actor at the centre of micro-power at the same time that it (the body) is subject to social controls aimed at managing its behaviour. This power over the body, or bio-power, is developed around two complementary poles: the body as a machine which must be disciplined at the individual level in order to integrate into the consumer/welfare state, and the body as a species which must propagate at a social level. The 'disciplines' are described by Foucault as regulatory controls 52 such as the use of surveillance to ensure social order, and the use of schools, factories and hospitals where people are watched and trained to meet social norms. For example, physical education can be understood as a discipline in Foucault's sense because it provides a set of teaching methods, principles, and conditions through which a desired set of bodily practices is inculcated (Harvey & Sparks, 1991, p. 169). These disciplines become a new form of power and are important because "they use normalization rather than repression to 'invest' bodies... [and they] represent techniques and technologies of internalized norms" (Rail & Harvey, 1995, p. 165). The application of Foucault to social theory of the body and sport has been diverse and includes British cultural studies, feminist cultural studies (Rail & Harvey, 1995), and sociology (Turner, 1992). These applications have led to specific criticisms of Foucault: that his work has not considered the different solicitations of men and women within his discourse on sexuality, that his conception of power is 'classless', and that his repressive notion of discipline is . pessimistic (Rail & Harvey, 1995). However, the positive notion of micro-power makes room for the individual to resist hegemonic power constructs and balances social power with economic power. There is no determinant status accorded the economy' in the last instance'. Instead the economy and social are constitutive of each other and likewise manifest the workings of power (Hewitt, 1991, p. 252). Social structures and the social body. The experience of the individual embodied subject is clearly not limited to the private realm, but must be placed in the context of the public body. "[T]he body and human embodiment are social" (Turner, 1992, p. 92), and therefore implicated in social structure and politics of daily life. Considering the cultural accounts of both health and physical activity in our society, it is 53 likely that class, particularly the middle-class, plays an important part in understanding the social body. Class differences are structured around the oppositional health behaviours of control and release. According to Crawford (1984), the middle-class identify self-control as the key to achieving the goal of health, and loss of control is constructed as a moral failure. The working-class tends to view self-discipline for health as important, but as a virtue of hard work and important for self-worth, rather than as a goal of health (Crawford, 1984). In contrast, the release of control can be seen to be valued when individuals speak of psychosomatic well-being instead of physical health, especially when intensifying control over the body is perceived as hazardous rather than helpful. Immediate gratification, a part of release, seems to be grounded in day-to-day reality. "Health as release sits uneasily with both medical discourse and with the medicalized conceptions of health found in everyday life" (Crawford, 1984, p. 85), although there has been an increasing public discourse on the importance of releasing 'stress' for example. According to Crawford (1984), the concept of release may be experienced differently depending on class. A certain amount of release seems to be regarded as appropriate and 'safe' as can be seen in cultural norms that include holidays.and,requirements of consumption for pleasure in our capitalist society. The individual is judged morally on her or his ability to release appropriately; judged by having adequate resources to be a consumer, but not becoming too fat or lazy and 'letting themselves go' (Crawford, 1984). It can be argued that this makes being poor 'inappropriate' both because of a lack of control among the working-class with respect to setting and meeting health objectives, as well as because of their inability to be good consumers by the dominant middle-class standard. Crawford suggests that the contemporary mandate for control and release reflects a basic contradiction in the social body that mitigates against a balance between control and release and 54 is embodied in our use of food and fitness. "The pursuit of health is bound to reproduce that contradiction" (Crawford, 1984, p. 94), and can be seen in the reproduction of dominant values and conceptions, as well as in the resistance to and transformation of those systems of meaning demonstrated in cultural and class divisions. That the body is the site for resistance should not be surprising. The mandates of control and release are experienced physically. Power imposes its agenda and achieves its objectives through our bodies (Crawford, 1984, p. 97). The morality of physical activity specifically has been explored in a recent paper relating fitness and health by White, Young and Gillett (1995). The central argument in the article is that "the development and promotion of cultural beliefs around health, while often well-intended, flow from and help reproduce structures of inequality and relations of dominance" (White et al., 1995, p. 161). A s for health, fitness is based on social and ideological understanding. The moral assumption in support of physical activity and fitness is based on the Victorian belief in a healthy mind in a healthy body. Games and recreation in Britain became connected to the development of moral character (Mangan, 1981, cited in White et al., 1995). White, Young and Gillett (1995) suggest that such interpretations of 'gentlemanly' character excluded women and girls at that time "much as the concept of character appears to continue to exclude females in the modern era" (White et al., 1995, p. 165). For women, the morality of physical activity is especially powerful with respect to fat and body image. Weight control is the number one reason Canadian women give for participation in physical activity (Campbell's Survey of the Well-Being of Canadians, 1988, cited in White et al., 1995). A n d while there are increased opportunities for women to participate in strenuous physical activity, exercises such as aerobics often isolate women in their homes (exercise videos) and fetishize aerobics (sexualization of marketing) so that it has become transformed from "a 55 potentially emancipatory phenomenon into a possible form of body regulation and social control" (White et al., 1995, p. 168). Feminist scholars have argued that the increasing emphasis on physical 'difference' between men and women has become symbolically more important for the definition of male 'superiority' as men experience the erosion of social dominance (White et al., 1995). White, Young and Gillett (1995) argue that the morality of physical activity in our society is based on current social norms that suggest the individual is personally responsible for her or his health and must work at it. The result is that the morality of physical activity is generally unquestioned (White et al., 1995). "The 'cult of the perfect body' shifts the emphasis away from health concerns and the acceptance of human imperfection (indeed, human averageness) towards bodily extremes, many versions of which inevitably jeopardize wellness" (White et al., 1995, p. 167). Attention is diverted away from structural factors such as unemployment, poverty and dangerous work which are related to poor health (Daykin & Naidoo, 1995; White et a l , 1995). Physical activity becomes " both imprisoning and emancipatory (in this case unhealthy and healthy)... simultaneously ... health is inescapably implicated in the process" (White et al., 1995, p. 174). The political nature of the body with respect to the achievement of health and fitness has been thoughtfully articulated by Ingham (1985) in a paper that wrestles with how our recent preoccupation with our bodies has been mobilized as one solution to the fiscal crisis of the welfare state. Similar to the arguments of Crawford (1980, 1984), Ingham (1985) suggests the current preoccupation with individual lifestyle embodies the structural contradiction of state defined need and market-generated, consumerist definition of want (Ingham, 1985, p. 43). A s a concept, lifestyle associates health, whether state supported or due to the initiative of the 56 individual, with quality of life and opportunities for the good life as described by consumer culture. However, this ideology is flawed because it assumes "that voluntaristic adjustments in lifestyle can substitute for State intervention in alleviating structural impediments to well-being" (Ingham, 1985, p. 47). This is articulated in cultural beliefs that victimize the poor by equating dependency upon state aid with moral weakness and stigmatizing the poor because they cannot be good consumers. The disturbing result of this emphasis on lifestyle is that it is being used as a solution to the fiscal crisis of the state, especially in the area of health. The problem with this approach can be observed in the contradiction of the promotion of active lifestyles and burning calories to a population of state dependents who cannot get the food they need to survive (Ingham, 1985). It can be argued that health and physical activity professionals have bought into the ideology of health behaviour being a problem of personal lifestyle, which has provided scientific legitimacy and power to the ideology of individual constraints rather than structural constraints to well-being. The result is a fragmenting of research questions and a separation of exercise physiologists and health educators, leading to a lack of integration at the level of public policy (Ingham, 1985). However, the support of an individual ideology has won physical education practitioners access to legitimacy and power for their profession as was demonstrated in an analysis of the rise of Kino-Quebec under the Parti Quebecois (Sparks, 1990). The inadequacy of the combination of a fractured public health policy with a physical activity profession rooted in individual responsibility to improve the well-being of individuals in our society is underscored by Ingham (1985) when he asks how aerobics w i l l solve social problems when poor health and illness in our society is most likely the result of damaging work environments, unemployment and poverty, especially for women. 57 It is not only a lack of economic resources that makes poverty, and being a member of the working poor, 'inappropriate', but also the lack of 'meaningful' paid employment of those who are on social assistance. The cultural and social experience of lack of work is important for understanding the meaning and practice of daily-life that may be shared by low-income women. In two cultural studies of unemployment as experienced by working class Danish women (Bloch, 1987a; Jorgensen, 1987) the authors suggest that these women not only shared the absence of wage labour and resulting poverty, but also the norm of social invisibility. The lack of routine and structure in everyday life disconnects them physically and emotionally from society. This sense of social invisibility has implications for the meaning of physical activity in daily life as a result of the impact it has on the body itself, both physically and symbolically. "This experience [of social isolation] is difficult to verbalize, and the body w i l l in fact be the primary bearer of this symbolic meaning" (Jorgensen, 1987, p. 335). The body may symbolize the experience of a lack of paid employment and resulting poverty via withdrawal, indolence, pleasure in sleeping and eating, and reluctance to move out of the invariability of daily life, and may ultimately lead to self-dislike and anxiety (Jorgensen, 1987). These studies suggest that women who experience an absence of paid employment and poverty either turn toward the family or out to the community in the struggle to obtain self-knowledge. However, it seems that both strategies may be ultimately unsuccessful. Jorgensen (1987) suggests that those women who attempt to get knowledge of self from inside the family ultimately feel detached from their body. This may be as a result of the way housework is experienced as creating invariability through repetitive and unsatisfying chores, or the tension between trying to create a social room for the family and a place for the self in its inner order (Jorgensen, 1987). • 58 Outside the family, fears of social control become important causing the women in these two studies to move to another neighbourhood, to ascribe a new symbolic meaning to the home by replacing or moving the furniture, or by'attempting to get knowledge of self in the social space outside of the home (Bloch, 1987a; Jorgensen, 1987). However, it appears that looking for knowledge of self outside the home may ultimately contribute to doubts about identity. A s Jorgensen (1987) notes about the social experience of single mothers: Especially, the single mothers have deeply felt experiences of gossip about those who are considered abnormal, in their own case referring to the work standard, as well as to the norms of cohabitation and of managing on one's own without public assistance (Jorgensen, 1987, p. 335). The responsibilities of being a mother, provider, and unpaid caregiver and housekeeper have also been important for understanding-the experience of physical activity in a recent study on improving the health of low-income women through community recreation (Frisby, Crawford, Dorer & Blair , 1996). Because poverty is often linked to divorce, this research suggests that for single mothers there is often great concern about the emotional trauma experienced by their children. A s a result, many single mothers seem to avoid getting involved in health promoting activities such as physical activity until they can ensure that the needs of their Children are met. However, this research also found that "the women felt that they could provide a positive role model for their children and enhance their own abilities to cope with daily struggles by becoming more physically active on a regular basis" (Frisby et al., 1996, p. 8). Throughout this discussion of social structure, issues of social power and personal control are clearly implicated in the concept of social structure and in the tension between human agency and social structure with respect to bodily practices. A useful theoretical framework for understanding the practice of physical activity in daily life has been provided by the French 59 social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, who made the problem of agency and structure a major focus through his emphasis on social practices. Bourdieu understands the symbolic struggle over the appropriate meaning of things (which include social practices), to be about the social reproduction of power and legitimation of domination. The fundamental conditions of social life become class struggles and the reproduction of power, realized in struggles'over meaning (symbolic capital) and resources (economic capital) (Harvey & Sparks, 1991). The body is central to Bourdieu's understanding of this class struggle, with the representation of the body and dispositions of the body being an important feature of physical and cultural capital. "The body in Bourdieu appears as a site on which is inscribed the cultural practices of the various classes" (Turner, 1992, p. 90). However, Bourdieu has been accused of being somewhat deterministic because of his emphasis on structure over agency and struggle (Turner, 1992). This limited understanding of the 'lived-body' in combination with the classification of gender as a secondary structuring principle after economic and cultural capital, has caused some feminist scholars to criticize class habitus as being androcentric (Laberge, 1995). Laberge (1995) argues that Bourdieu's concept of habitus can contribute to a feminist perspective i f gender is integrated into the concept of cultural capital, particularly into the 'embodied' state of cultural capital where gendered dispositions have the same properties as other states of cultural capital such as education credentials and the possession of cultural goods that work as sources of power (Laberge, 1995). The theoretical framework of class habitus and the related concept of body habitus developed by Bourdieu have been effectively applied to research on body practices of women. Using a socio-cultural approach to physical activity and lifestyles, Laberge and Sankoff (1988) made a link between social class or class segments and various leisure activities and lifestyles. 60 The researchers were able to identify the different perceptions that social classes have of various activities and their levels of participation by examining their use o f free time (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988). This framework is especially useful for understanding body practices of working class women because it considers class conditions in combination with cultural taste, as well as gender, with respect to how the body is experienced at the individual level. Class habitus can be understood "as the generating principle of tastes, likes, and dislikes which determines choices in the form of consumer practices which constitute a lifestyle" (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988, p. 268). It "is both the internalization of conditions of existence and the practice-generating principle of social agents. It effects the indispensable mediation between class conditions on the one hand and structured practices (that is, lifestyles) on the other" (Laberge & Sankoff, 1988, p. 270). When combined with the concept of body habitus (as system of implied schemes governing the relations to one's own body) the importance of gender for body practices and class habitus is emphasized. Further implications have been identified with respect to the relationship between class, health and lifestyles. Health promotion is particularly concerned with how and why people adopt, maintain and change their lifestyles, yet the link between health and lifestyles has not been adequately theorized (Williams, 1995). B y understanding Bourdieu's concept of class habitus as the mediator of human agency, several key points can be made with respect to health-related behaviour. Firstly, it must be understood as part of the "implicit, routinised, practical logic of daily life" (Williams, 1995, p. 598). Related to this is the understanding that health behaviour may be dependent on implicit meaning based on practical logic visible in practice, and private rather than public accounts of health. Third, the struggle for social distinction within class habitus is stable and durable, suggesting that health practices are socially and physical congruent 61 with habitus. Finally, the class-related body is crucial to the understanding of health and illness. Will iams (1995) concludes that change in health behaviour is possible i f it does not contradict habitus and recognizes the equal weight of freedom and constraint in daily life. Individuals do not simply conform to the social structure, but may also resist. A potentially fruitful line of future inquiry in the class, health and lifestyles debate would be to focus less on conformity and stability and more upon reflexivity and cultural resistance (Williams, 1995, p. 601). Meaning and Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life This section on the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life addresses the first two of the three important themes that emerged in the literature: i) health, ii) well-being and quality of life, and ii i) power and control. The third theme includes issues of power and control that were addressed above and therefore do not need to be restated here. What follows is a discussion of health, well-being and quality of life as they appear in the literature. Health. Health, as a purpose or 'meaning' of physical activity, appears to be primarily relevant only to middle-class respondents o f research studies (Backett & Davison, 1992; Calnan & Will iams, 1991; Laberge & Sankoff, 1988), although this may be misleading as the majority of the studies have focused on middle-class participants. The white, middle-class individuals who make up the majority of research participants in these studies identify a range of physical and/or mental health benefits resulting from their physical activity practices. Many of these benefits are identified in the first chapter. Other studies speculate that one important benefit of physical activity practices performed by women in the context of leisure may be the opportunity for women to control their bodies, and ultimately their lives, resulting in a heightened sense of 62 control in other aspects of life (Henderson, 1994). Participation in sport and leisure may also help girls and women increase self-control and thereby decrease external control over female body images (Hoffman, 1995). In contrast however, several authors have argued that there is considerable social, cultural and personal pressure on women to transform their bodies into a more desired form, the experience of which can be understood as both freedom and oppression (Birrell & Theberge, 1994; Thompson & Hirschman, 1995; White et al., 1995). This potential for physical activity to be experienced as oppression, combined with the social pressure of self-responsibility for health and therefore exercise (White et al., 1995), suggests that physical activity may not always be experienced as a positive or beneficial practice in terms of health. In spite of this, researchers and policy makers have a tendency to assume that physical activity is predominantly experienced as a positive contributor to health. Because the majority of these conclusions are based on white middle-class subjects, and because the health 'meaning' of physical activity may differ between individuals, it is important these findings be reconsidered from the perspective of marginalized women such as for single mothers l iving in poverty. The difficulty of investigating practices related to health in daily life is highlighted by a number of researchers who have found that health concerns do not often surface in the context of day-to-day behaviours, including physical activity (Calnan & Will iams, 1991). When attitudes towards health practices are probed directly, findings from a study that interviewed lower socio-economic status adults demonstrate that most individuals are aware of good health practices and what to do to improve health (Public Health Services, 1992). However, there appears to be a gap between awareness and practice that may indicate "the link between the risk factors and disease 63 prevention has not been internalized [and that there may not be] . . . a clear understanding of what specific steps need to be taken [to improve health]" (Public Health Services, 1992, p. xiv). In light of these findings it may not be surprising that this group of low socio-economic research participants reported that they got an adequate amount of exercise through daily activities at home or at work, and that time and money are the main barriers to exercise. Lower levels of physical activity, such as walking, were seldom reported as exercise except by some older women. The report suggests in conclusion that education programs need to provide information that links biological risk factors with behavioural risk factors for disease in order to counteract the deeply held belief in fate and acceptance of lack of individual control among this group (Public Health Services, 1992). Unfortunately, this approach does not allow for discussion of the reasons these beliefs are held in the first place, nor any consideration of the potential for these reasons, nor the value of choices to be inactive and eat less healthy food. Improving physical health as a desirable outcome at whatever cost is assumed to be a priority by many researchers. A refreshing contrast to this behaviour change perspective on health promotion is a review of health education research by Marin, Burhansstipanov and Connell (1995). In this review the authors recommend several research strategies with respect to underserved populations that would contribute to an understanding of physical activity as a health practice. Two research approaches in particular may be relevant for this understanding in the daily lives of low-income women. The first is the identification of "the sociopsychological characteristics of health-damaging behaviors and the social or contextual factors that affect disease incidence and behavioral antecedents" (Marin et al., 1995, p.358-359). The second is the development of a research program "designed to identify protective factors found among members of underserved 64 populations that have allowed certain underserved populations to stay healthy or to be healthier and that can be used in the development of prevention intervention" (Marin et al., 1995, p.358-359). While this review does not consider physical activity specifically, it suggests that a better understanding of the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life would make a significant contribution to promoting it as a health practice among people in marginalized groups. Well-being and quality of life. With respect to the meaning and practice of physical activity, well-being and quality of life are usually assumed by researchers to be the ultimate outcomes, but secondary to the main objectives of improved physical and mental health. However from the perspective of the lay person, choice of physical activity practices is in part related to lifestyle and quality of life issues, especially for middle-class, well educated women who Laberge and Sankoff (1988) classify as the "intellectual bourgeoisie". Although the notion of well-being has often been equated with mental health, the "emerging consensus among researchers is that the term 'well-being' implies an emphasis on the individual's perception or sense of wholeness of self, groups or community" (Frankish et al., 1996, p. 11). Therefore, well-being can be considered to be individual and collective, multi-dimensional (i.e. physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social), and determined by subjective experience. According to Frankish, Mi l l igan and Reid (1996), quality of life is generally accepted as having both an objective (personal characteristics, social stability, safety etc.) and subjective component. The most critical subjective attributes of quality of life have been described as satisfaction and happiness (Oleson, 1990, cited in Frankish et al., 1996), with satisfaction being a relatively stable indicator of the discrepancy between goals and achievement, while happiness being a more temporary response to a current situation (Simmons, 1994, cited in Frankish et al., 1996). Research on perceptions of leisure opportunities and assessments of quality of life has shown that leisure values are significant and positively related to perception of quality of life (Jeffres & Dobos, 1993, cited in Frankish et al., 1996). The identification of well-being as a possible 'meaning' for physical activity practices is rarely made in other than a secondary way in studies on the health benefits of physical activity and adherence strategies for individual exercise programs. A n exception is a recent paper by Kimiecik and Lawson (1996) that distinguishes between a "human capital model" and a "human development-potential perspective" as fundamentally different approaches to health promotion and exercise behaviour change strategies (Kimiecik & Lawson, 1996). The human capital model is based on a belief that people pursue a rational regulated life and require professional direction on appropriate health and lifestyle activities. The primary assumptions of this approach include: health is the absence of disease; health is compartmentalized; health is a personal trouble; all individuals have equal access to health and health programs; economic considerations matter most; and cost-benefit (profit-loss) analysis determines efficiency, effectiveness, and questions of worth (Kimiecik & Lawson, 1996). The conventional health behaviour change strategies associated with this model include education and threats about health risk/benefits, exercise prescription, and incentives — all of which have limited long-term success potential (Kimiecik & Lawson, 1996). Alternatively, the human development-potential perspective begins with an assumption that the individual has strengths, dreams and aspirations. Based on this, health professionals are best positioned as resource collaborators and work to develop programs tailored to specific 66 contexts, targets and individuals. Empowerment becomes a major priority as needs, problems and dreams are seen as social issues that involve families, communities and systems. Hence it makes little sense to continue to offer person-oriented programs without taking into consideration their ecological contexts and cultures and how they influence behavior (Kimiecik & Lawson, 1996, p. 115). A focus on individual behaviour change becomes only one part of a diversity of community interventions to promote health. In this perspective, building health enhancement also results from building the . sociocultural capital of communities. More than an economic cost and benefit, health is a moral and political imperative, with good health being a fundamental human right (Kimiecik & Lawson, 1996, p. 119). Applying this framework to the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income women, it becomes clear that understanding quality of life or 'meaning' and the relationship between these and physical activity in daily life is important for moving beyond behaviour change strategies and physical activity 'programs'. Implications of the Literature Within the dominant approach to physical activity, low-income single mothers are generally considered to be the least active population, likely as a result of their limited access to financial and social resources, as well as their position of relative powerlessness due to gender inequality. However, there appears to be a significant lack of research that addresses the context and the social experience of the individual, especially among marginalized women such as low-income single mothers, with respect to physical activity and daily life. There are a number of difficulties present in researching the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. While research has demonstrated that shared bodily practices exist, it is unlikely they are based on conscious knowledge and beliefs. It is more likely.that practices 67 and meanings related to physical activity in daily life are based on complex and possibly conflicting social and cultural norms and values. A s a result, observing practices of physical activity, collecting public and private accounts of meaning and practice, as well as considering the implications of lifestyle and the physical environment, are likely the best methods of investigating the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. Ultimately, physical activity is experienced at the level of the individual who can be considered as an embodied subject within a set of social relationships. Theories of power and control are important for understanding meaning in this context as they make it possible to interpret certain bodily practices as acts of resistance or conformity, and to understand how these practices can be enhanced or constrained within specific social structures. While the practice and meaning of physical activity in daily life has not been investigated specifically for low-income single mothers, theories of power suggest that investigating the practice of physical activity w i l l make the invisible power relations visible and help us to understand the meaning of physical activity within the dominant cultural norms and values and in the context of limited economic and social resources. The literature suggests that low-income single mothers relate to physical activity in contradictory ways, struggling with issues of personal control and social power that may ultimately contribute to feelings of limited personal control and low social power. The literature also suggests that it may be necessary to move beyond theories of behaviour change and consider the practice of physical activity from a well-being perspective in order to enhance positive long-term health for low-income single mothers. 68. CHAPTER III RESEARCH METHODS Moving from the process of reading and synthesizing theory to the process of collecting and analyzing data felt like a huge leap of faith. On the one hand the literature created a nice tidy package in support of my research questions. On the other hand, it became clear to me that by putting the individual experiences and daily lives of women who are marginalized in the dominant culture at the centre of my investigation, the use of qualitative research methods such as interviews and discussion groups would provide me with the richest and most useful data. Unfortunately, using these qualitative research strategies also required that I consider issues of power, that I give up some control over the research process, and that I anticipate facing ethical issues that may have no clear resolution. This chapter details the exciting and rewarding process of using a qualitative research strategy to develop the research tools and collect the data for this study. The chapter begins by considering the guiding principles of qualitative research methods and then continues with a review of the primary ethical issues encountered during the research process. This is followed by a brief review of the research site and sample. The bulk of the chapter is taken up with the various data collection methods including: i) an initial discussion group, ii) in-depth interviews with three research participants, iii) physical activity logs, iv) descriptive assessment of the community, v) community mapping exercise, vi) participant observation, and vii) field notes. After a brief review of the process of managing and analyzing the data, the chapter concludes with a discussion in response to the fourth research question about determining the appropriate research methods for studying physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers. 69 Principles of Qualitative Research The selection of qualitative research methods to address the research questions in this study was based on the exploratory nature of the study and the recognition that meaning and practice may be most powerfully reported in the voices of the research participants. A basic tenet of qualitative research is to try to move beyond the taken-for-granted and uncover the varied and often contradictory meanings which people use to interpret the area of life under study (Backett, 1990, p. 64). Because qualitative research "assumes that systematic inquiry must occur in a natural setting rather than an artificially constrained one such as an experiment" (Marshall & Rossman, 1995, p. 4) and "focuses on the ordinary, the routine, the details of everyday life" (Patton, 1990, p. 73), it r allowed for an in-depth consideration of daily life from the perspective of the research participants and provided a solid grounding for the exploration of meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life. While a poststructural perspective would question the "construction of the individual as the subject of knowledge" (Calas & Smircich, 1992, p. 226), I used women's voices purposefully to help construct new possible views of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income women who are also single mothers. In developing the research questions and research strategy, I also took a feminist approach and consciously put the issue of gender at the centre of my inquiry (Lather, 1991). This application of a feminist perspective based on women's experience of physical activity in daily life is supported by the poststructuralist feminist approach (Calas & Smircich, 1992) which recognizes the contradictory nature of women's lives (Scraton, 1994). Although I have used various ethnographic techniques that value the experience of, and construction of meaning by, the individual, I am very conscious of the need to consider broad 70 structural constraints such as class, patriarchy and racism (Anderson, 1989). A s a result I intentionally take a critical approach that values the cultural informant's perceptions of social reality, but also recognizes that perceptions "are often permeated with meanings that sustain powerlessness and that people's conscious models exist to perpetuate, as much as to explain, social phenomena" (Anderson, 1989, p. 253). This critical approach allowed me to consider the primary analytic categories of ' low-income single mother', 'physical activity' and 'daily life ' , to be ideologically based and therefore problematic. Before leaving the discussion of the principles of qualitative research there are two important dimensions of ethnographic and feminist research that are possible using this approach, and that would have made an important contribution to this investigation, but that cannot be addressed adequately within the limited scope of this study. The first is the development of 'grounded theory' through the process of negotiating meaning and power with the research participants to establish a new theoretical structure (Anderson, 1989). This is beyond the scope of a masters research project and has not been attempted here, although a 'grounded analysis' o f the data was completed in combination with the development of an organizing framework. M y hope is that this work, in combination with recommendations made in the final chapter, w i l l contribute to the development of new theoretical structures and possibly grounded theory in the future. The second dimension that has not be adequately addressed by the research design is related.to empowerment and the role of the 'expert researcher'. I paid careful attention to issues of reflexivity in order fo ensure that the self-reflexive process kept the "critical framework from becoming the container into which the data are poured" (Anderson, 1989, p. 254). However, the ideal of a participatory action research approach that would have helped to ensure my perspective 71 as researcher did not dominate the "interpretive community" of the participant (Anderson, 1989; Frisby et al.,T996; Green, George & Daniel, 1995; Lather, 1991) was not be possible. The nature of a masters level research project, including available time and resources, does not often allow the implementation of a truly collaborative approach. Instead, other techniques such as in-depth interviews, returning to the participants to validate the research, and planning for reciprocity were used to address issues of power and control. Review of Ethical Issues Obtaining Formal Approval General issues of ethics for qualitative research were addressed in this study by ensuring appropriate steps were taken before contacting the research participants. These included obtaining formal approval for the research from the social service organization that operated the Cedar Court housing project, and official approval from the Behavioural Research Ethics Board at the University of British Columbia (see Appendix H , Certificate of Ethics Approval). Consistent with accepted ethical practices for qualitative research, anonymity was promised to the research participants (See. Appendix A and Appendix C, Subject Informed Consent). Because the women were being asked to use their own voices and words to describe and explain their lives, often in a very private and personal ways, I expected that the interviews could contain information they may not want friends, staff within the social service organization, or government authorities to know about. However, following the interviews the women in the study were offered the option of using their real names i f they preferred to be more 'visible ' in the data (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). Although reasons were never established, all three of the research participants indicated that they preferred to use a pseudonym. 72 Because of the personal nature of the research questions, as well as the stresses that are typically a part of l iving in a low-income community with a lack of adequate resources, I was concerned about some situation-specific ethical issues and considered these in advance of meeting the research participants. These personal and human issues I anticipated included: depression, high levels of stress, histories and on-going experiences of violence, as well as illegal activities related to drug and alcohol abuse and welfare fraud. I discussed these issues with Jennifer (a pseudonym), the community development coordinator for Cedar Court, before the data collection began, including various ways of accessing support in the community in case a problem arose during the research. Although issues of stress, depression, violence, eating disorders and petty fraud did come up during the interviews, they did not appear to be serious enough to warrant any kind of intervention. In my conversations with the research participants it appeared that they were satisfied with the support they were receiving from Jennifer as well as the government social services they accessed in the community. Role of the Researcher and Reciprocity Throughout this research project I worked to ensure that my role as a researcher was presented clearly and honestly to the participants, and that my attitude was non-judgmental and one of interest. I was open and direct about the purpose of the research, my use of the research to obtain a masters degree, my personal interest in learning about the individual experience of physical activity in daily life, and my commitment to valuing the effort and energy required of them in their lives as low-income single mothers. I was nervous entering into the research relationship with the women who agreed to participate, because I was not confident that they would benefit to the same extent that I would. Although I raised this issue with them and .73 discussed ways that I could reciprocate their contribution, this perceived imbalance on my part did not appear to be an issue of concern for them. The opportunity to consider my questions and learn something that could help them enhance their health and well-being seemed to be sufficient. In considering issues of reciprocity (Marshall & Rossman, 1995), I attempted to limit my demands on personal time. However, I did experience some discomfort and concern about time demands because in addition to the interviews and discussion group, my research design included a physical activity log that needed to be recorded throughout one full day, as well as a day-long observation with one of the participants. The women in this study did not seem to find this additional effort a burden, however. I was also able to minimize the effort with one of the women who recorded the log using a hand-held tape recorder. Part of my strategy to limit time demands included working my schedule around each of the participants, asking questions about personal comfort and safety, and checking to see i f there was anything else that I could do to make them feel comfortable. I also provided child care when it was needed and in one particular case I was able to reciprocate by providing lunch and help with transportation during the participant observation. Finally, I gave them copies of our conversations in a timely way. While this strategy had the potential to be a burden as it required them to make time to read a long document, they generally expressed an interest in seeing our conversation written down and it seemed to interest them and generate questions about the research process. Part of my strategy to ensure reciprocity included asking each of the women to consider something that I could do for them to support their health and well-being in some way. Although I gave suggestions that included providing information on local programs offered by the community centres, locating guest speakers to come in and talk on stress, nutrition or planning, or helping them to set up an exercise program, only one of the women took me up on the offer. After the data had been collected I spent a couple of hours with her one afternoon talking about the kinds of things she could do to create a health and activity program that would work for her. The other two research participants seemed overwhelmed and uncomfortable asking for specific help and as a result no activity was planned with them, in spite of my repeated offers. In gaining access to Cedar Court I had to consider the implications of my past work as a staff person and volunteer with the same social service organization that operated the housing project. I was a colleague of one of the organization's directors, and more recently had been a fitness volunteer and completed a research contract for another department within the organization. M y long history with the organization helped me to get formal agency support, and although I was concerned that it could hinder the development of a positive and trusting relationship with the research participants i f they saw me as a 'staff person', this did not seem to be the case. In addition to my previous connection with the social service organization, I also considered how my background and personal assumptions could influence the research process. With this in mind, I identified three basic assumptions that had the potential to influence the research process and data analysis: a) that my interest in understanding why low-income single mothers, for the most part, do not access organized exercise and recreation program is based on my own failure to be able to provide these programs. b) that while physical activity can provide significant physical health benefits and enhance personal confidence and self-esteem, it can also play a part in constraining well-being. 75 c) that as principal author and 'research instrument' o f this study I must be certain to write myself into the text in order to "continually re-examine the extent to which [personal] ideology contributes to a failure to see beyond it, and to question particular truths which adhere to it and the stereotypes which develop from it" (Opie, 1992, p. 58). Issues of Power Power is inherent in any research relationship and can only be addressed to a certain extent through reciprocity. When interviews are responsive to individual preoccupations, Opie (1992) suggests that "there [is] an in-built therapeutic dimension to the process which ... [could be] characterize[d] as empowering" (Opie, 1992, p. 64). B y using a semi-structured interview approach and allowing the participants to introduce and define key issues I worked to enhance the power and control of the participants in the research process. In fact, all of the research participants stated in some way that talking and thinking about physical activity in their lives helped them to recognize and feel good about the things they are already doing to support their health, and that it helped them to plan for future positive changes. However, at the same time that the participants are empowered, the process of research itself has the potential to disempower (Fine & Weis, 1996). The.researcher is privileged with knowledge the participants do not have and uses this knowledge to challenge the participants and interpret the results. The exploratory, qualitative researcher must... appreciate that giving up some control over the determination of which issues are important may in fact result in a lack of information about topics which the researcher herself may feel are of relevance ... the first round of interviews have to be comfortable enough to keep people involved. However, a non-challenging interview is likely to generate a lot of 'public accounts' of health and family behaviours (Backett, 1990, p. 65). 76 This tension between the knowledge of the participant and the knowledge of the researcher is especially apparent when the research participant is part of a marginalized group. Standing (1998) describes this as difference in "ways of knowing". Throughout the research process I tried to balance valuing the knowledge of the research participants and sustaining my own critical perspective by being respectful of their opinions, listening for and asking questions about differences between what they were saying and what I was thinking, as well as by trying not to position them as the "other" in my textual practices (which w i l l be addressed in the next section). I also used a second interview to explore meanings and contradictions more explicitly, and brought the interpretation of the interview data back to the research participants for consideration and comments. Unfortunately, it seemed to me that the participants were not that interested in discussing the implications of the research. It is not clear i f this was because of the power imbalance between us, because of the largely theoretical nature of the analysis, or because individual personal interests were focused on developing strategies to become more active. A s a result the research participants did not provide any specific feedback to the analysis other than to confirm that the interviews were accurate and to say that they generally agreed with my interpretations. Following Frisby, Crawford and Dorer (1997), the women who participated in this research may have been substantially more interested in the outcome and conclusions of the study had it been based on a participatory action research design. 77 Textual Representation Finally, I considered the form of the final report and construction of the 'text' in the development of the research methods (Fine & Weis, 1996) in an attempt to avoid the "tendency to define [the research] process and product as separate problems when in fact they are intimately related to each other" (Sparkes, 1995, p. 186). Opie (1992) suggests that the power imbalance that is inherent in the researcher-participant relationship requires that the interpretations of the research be based on four principles of alternative research practices. These practices include: a) recognition of the limitations of research and knowledge by clearly positioning the researcher in the process and accepting the incomplete nature of research outcomes. b) performing an analytic or deconstructive reading of the textual data and putting the paradoxical, the contradictory and the marginal in the foreground. c) writing in voices "not necessarily to achieve consensus but to highlight the points of difference and the tensions between competing accounts as well as shared interpretations ... [creating] a much more broken and fissured text" (Opie, 1992, p. 63). d) avoiding appropriation of the text in order to facilitate empowerment of the participants by using unstructured/semi-structured and responsive interviewing which puts the participant at the centre of the research process, and by constantly reflecting "on the way that the texts of the participants are created by ideology and yet at some points challenge it" (Opie, 1992, p. 67). While I considered these issues in the design of the research methods and the collection of the data, I continued to struggle with the representation of the voices of the individual women for a number of reasons. First of all, it was not clear to me that positioning myself as the researcher was sufficient for representing issues of 'difference' between myself and the research participants. Secondly, as I wrote about what the women said and edited their voices I found that I was 'cleaning up' the quotations. A n d finally, I found that my language that referred to the research participants as "the women" or "these women" was grouping them together in a way that represented them as the "other" and myself as the primary or superior voice. Standing (1998) suggests that to deal with these issues the researcher must consider not just making the marginalized experience central in the research, but that we must make experiences of marginality public and accessible (Standing, 1998, p. 199). While the academic endeavor of a masters thesis does not provide the forum for making this research public and accessible beyond the academic world, I did consider what I could do i n the textual representation within this constraint. Firstly I tried to present the women who participated in this research in a positive light by highlighting the aspects of their individual experiences that were similar to my own and valuing the ways in which we are different. Secondly I purposefully edited their quotations to make them flow and represent their experiences in the most powerful way possible in an academic setting. A n d finally I describe the women in this study as "the research participants" or "the women who participated in the research" as much as possible in order to value them as individuals and ensure that my voice was represented as part of a conversation and did not dominate it in a "me versus them" kind of way. In spite of this effort I feel like I have only traveled part of the distance necessary to adequately represent the voices and experiences of the low-income single mothers in this study. It is the dilemmas of trying to challenge, not reproduce, hierarchies of power and knowledge; the dilemmas of not losing the 'authenticity', emotion and vibrancy of women's voices, whilst not positioning them as 'Other', and distancing ourselves from the political challenge of feminist research in the so-called 'objective language of academia (Standing, 1998, p. 201). 79 Research Site and Sample Research Site The women who participated in this study are all residents of Cedar Court, a pseudonym for the housing project for low-income single mothers operated by a large, well-known, non-profit, social service organization. The low-rise apartment building that provides 26 units of subsidized housing is located in one downtown Vancouver community, although many of the services accessed by the women in this study are located in a neighbouring community. The community profiles provided by the City of Vancouver note that the neighbourhood boundaries are "for planning and administrative purposes and may not accurately reflect smaller historical neighbourhoods" (City of Vancouver, 1996), a fact that was confirmed during the data collection when it became apparent that the boundaries also do not accurately reflect the way the community is experienced by the people who live there. A s a result, the statistical representation of the demographics for the community the research participants actually live in must necessarily be a composite of two official neighbourhoods as described in the City of Vancouver profiles. The demographic numbers for the community that the research participants use to do most of their shopping and recreation activities, are used here to describe the research site. However, the numbers from the neighbourhood in which the housing project is actually located w i l l be included on occasion to emphasize the contrast between neighbourhoods. The research community can be considered to be Vancouver's first suburb with the building of the first house in 1891. One hundred years later the 1991 population was approximately 6% of the total for Vancouver, an increase of almost 7% since 1986 and reflective of the increase of the population of Vancouver as a whole. The ages of the residents in the research neighbourhood also reflect quite closely the overall make-up of Vancouver with 20% of 80 residents being children under the age 19 and 26% of the residents age 40 to 64. The main difference is in the significantly higher number of residents age 20 to 39 (43% compared to 39%) and lower number of resident seniors age 65 and older (11% compared to 14%). In addition to having a greater number of younger adults, this neighbourhood also has a significantly higher number of people in low-income households (38% compared to 25% for Vancouver as a whole). The percentage of families led by a single parent is almost 25%, compared to 15.5% for Vancouver, and the average household income is almost $30,300 and approximately $15,000 less than the Vancouver average. The character of the community is defined in part by the housing and land use in the area. There is a wide variety of housing types available in the community with certain areas zoned primarily for apartments and others mainly for duplexes and single-family homes with additional suites. The diversity is carried through to the 'look', of the neighbourhood. There are a number of well-maintained heritage homes along the main streets standing beside houses built during an influx of immigrants after WWII and that have been allowed to run down. Most o f the people who live in this community rent their homes with almost 73% of the dwellings being rented in comparison to 59% for Vancouver as a whole. The density of the housing in this area is also significantly higher than for Vancouver with almost 29 units per hectare compared to almost 18 units. In the neighbouring community where the Cedar Court housing project is located, most of the homes are owned by the residents. A t almost 57% this is higher than the Vancouver percentage of almost 41%. This neighbourhood is also distinct from the main research community because of the lower housing density, primarily single-family dwellings, relatively little industry (0.6% of Vancouver's industrial land base), and larger family units with more children. 81 According to the language statistics for the research community, ethnic diversity is quite similar to that of Vancouver with almost 59% having English as their mother tongue. Statistics for the neighbouring community however, indicate that almost 43% of the residents speak English first, followed closely by Chinese at almost 30% and then Greek at just over 4%. Residents with Chinese as their first language total just over 17% in the primary research area, followed by Italian at just over 4%. Research Sample The women who participated in this research project were single mothers between the ages of 28 and 32 with dependent children living at home. None were members of a visible minority and each used English as her mother tongue. They all received social assistance and were not engaged in paid employment at the time of the interviews. Following Frisby, Crawford and Dorer (1997), it would be preferable to have a sample self-identified as low-income from a generally disadvantaged community, rather than from a group that has been categorized as low-income by both the government and a large, middle-class organization such as the social service organization operating the housing project. Using the population in Cedar Court created the risk of involving women who are not representative of other low-income women in the community because of their exposure to fitness and lifestyle programming through the housing project, and because of the additional support available to them as part of this housing program. However, low-income women are generally very difficult to involve in research studies due to the limited time and energy they have to commit to anything beyond meeting the daily challenge of taking cafe of themselves their family. In addition, their experience of social isolation and the transitory nature of their lives makes it difficult for them to feel involved and committed to the research process (Payne, 1991). A s a result, using the housing project population greatly increased the 'do-ability' of this research (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). Another advantage of this setting was that it provided a clearly delineated community with accessible meeting facilities in a familiar environment that was described as 'safe' by the research participants. In addition, Jennifer, the part-time community development coordinator with the housing project, was helpful by facilitating access to the residents through a regular tenants meeting and answering questions about the housing project. The use of a population of single mothers rather than two-parent families l iving in poverty also helped to eliminate problems related to patterns of inequalities as a result of gender-based power relationships within two-parent families that could have structured both attitudes and access to resources (Backett, 1990). The research participants were also limited to women who were not currently involved in paid employment in order to ensure a qualitatively similar experience of poverty (Bloch, 1987a). The sample of research participants for the interviews was recruited from a discussion group made up of three residents of the housing project and a fourth resident who expressed an interest in the study but was not able to attend the discussion group meeting. The discussion group was smaller than the six women who were expected, although it resulted in the desired number of three women for the personal interviews, with an extra woman in the case of attrition. Interestingly, even though the residents of Cedar Court included a variety of ethnic backgrounds and the recruitment of research participants was not restricted on the basis of ethnicity, no women from visible minority groups volunteered to be involved. This may be attributable to the use of an 'artificial ' population resulting in a more homogenous group than i f a random sample of low-income women in the community had been selected as a more 'typical case' (Patton, 1990). However, it could also have been a result of me, the researcher, being an obviously white . - 83 woman. Or it could have been because of the restriction to women not in paid employment and thereby eliminating a large number of residents, perhaps unintentionally including those who may have been members of a visible minority group. The ethnic diversity of the housing project makes the reason for a lack of diversity among the research participants unclear. In summary, the criteria for selection of the research participants included: a. willingness to participate b. single mother with dependent children at home . c. self-described as "low-income", on social assistance and not in paid employment Initially I had hoped to use young single mothers between the ages of 19 and 25 because of their increased likelihood to be low-income (Poverty Profile 1995, 1997) and because young women are among the least physically active groups (Dahlgren, 1988). Although there were young single mothers l iving at Cedar Court they were not interested in participating, possibly because they felt they had enough to deal with in their lives already, as w i l l be discussed later in the presentation of the data. The women who did agree to participate in this study may also have self-selected based on the fact that they identified this as a time of change in their lives and were therefore ready to consider increasing the amount of physical activity in their lives. This idea w i l l be explored further in the presentation of the data. Data Collection Methods The primary data collection methods included i) an initial discussion group, ii) in-depth interviews with three primary informants, i i i) physical activity logs, iv) a descriptive assessment of the community, v) community mapping exercises, vi) a participant observation, and vii) field notes. What follows is a discussion of each of the data collection methods, including a brief 84 critique of the main issues related to each method. Because the research methods were designed to be used together and complement each other, the general assessment and recornmendations for alternatives are made together in the following section that addresses the fourth research question: "What are appropriate methods for studying physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers?" Discussion Group A t regular tenants meeting, I personally invited Cedar Court residents to attend a discussion group to talk about physical activity. Letters were distributed at the meeting (see Appendix A , Subject Informed Consent) and the phone numbers of interested women were collected. I called each of the nine women who left a phone number one week following the meeting and organized a discussion group three weeks later. The discussion group was held at Cedar Court on a weekday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 and was attended by three women. I arranged for childcare using the baby-sitter who usually provided this service during tenant meetings in the utility room down the hall. The usual room for tenant meetings was also used for the discussion group. Five open-ended questions were used during the discussion group and were designed to help the research participants articulate their definitions, assumptions and practices related to physical activity, health and well-being (see Appendix B , Discussion Group Sample Questions). These questions had been previously piloted with a group of low-income young mothers in a job-training program within this same social service organization. The pilot test confirmed that the questions were meaningful and they were not changed. 85 The purpose of bringing together a group of women from the housing project was to encourage discussion in a comfortable environment and stimulate ideas by listening to others and expressing opinions. It was also an opportunity for me to develop a more personal relationship with the women and gain their support and participation in the in-depth interviews. The discussion group allowed me to check out my assumptions about how they understand physical activity, and to observe social interaction to help with later interpretations of descriptions and meanings.articulated by the women. Referring back to the discussion group conversation also allowed me to re-visit ideas about physical activity with the women separately during the in-depth interviews and ensure that my questions and language were relevant to the participants. A second letter requesting their involvement in the in-depth interviews was distributed at the discussion group (see Appendix C, Subject Informed Consent). A l l three women who attended the discussion group were interested in participating in the in-depth interviews, as well a fourth woman who was unable to attend the meeting. Two of the women from the discussion group were selected for interviews, as well as the fourth woman, in order to provide a range of ages for the children, a variety in the number of children in each family, and a diversity of social class backgrounds. Because I initially informed the women in the discussion group that I would not be selecting all o f them for participation in the in-depth interviews, I did not communicate with the one woman who was not selected. Following the discussion group I did thank everyone and remind them that I would not be able to interview everyone because I simply did not have the time. I found out later through the grapevine that the woman who was not included felt left out even though she understood that I could not include everyone. Since that time I have considered possible alternatives to the way I handled the situation, such as including her as a fourth interview which I did not have the necessary time for, or including her in the final presentation of 86 the results of the study which I still intend to do. However, I do not believe this situation could have been avoided due to my limited resources, the small size of the discussion group, and the fact that she was the only one who was not selected for an interview. In general, the discussion group was very effective for establishing a relationship with the research participants and developing a sense of the community in a non-threatening way. The discussion group also seemed to create an environment that allowed for the discussion of social issues as well as personal or individual issues. For example, it was during the discussion group that the research participants raised the issue of household work being undervalued because it is performed by women. This issue did not arise again spontaneously in the in-depth interviews where most of the discussion centred on the individual experience of the day-to-day. In-depth Interviews Two in-depth interviews were conducted with each of the three research participants selected from the discussion group using criteria outlined earlier. These interviews lasted approximately one and a half hours each and were held in the homes of each of the women. I scheduled all o f the interviews for during the weekday while the children were at school or daycare, with the exception of the youngest child (one-year old) who was present during both interviews. Having the children out of the house made it easier for the research participants to relax and take time to consider my questions without any interruptions. However, I was not able to see how they interacted with their children and get a sense of their family life the way I was with the mother who had a one-year old. I initially selected in-depth interviews as a research method because I wanted to be able to explore issues in a more detailed and personal way than either a discussion group or questionnaire would allow. The interviews were also designed to help provide contextual information for interpretation of the discussion group conversation, as well as to develop the themes and issues that emerged in more detail (Marshall & Rossman, 1995, Patton, 1990). M y hope was that by clarifying meanings with each individual woman it would be possible to note shared meanings and differences, as well as to identify physical activities that were specific to their day. This was important because: Qualitative methods must do more than simply ask people what they do about the various biomedically based health-related behaviours, such as diet, exercise, alcohol, and smoking ... one alternative ... is to ask people about their lives ... particularly their domestic lives, and then make inferences about which aspects of their 'lifestyles' may have implications or just relevance for 'health' (Backett, 1990, p. 65-66). I conducted the first interview using a semi-structured interview approach based on six open-ended questions (see Appendix D , Interview #1 Sample Questions), but I determined the sequence of the questions and the wording during the interview itself (Patton, 1990). The original questions for the first interview numbered only five instead of the six that appear in Appendix D . The original questions were designed to focus on the meaning of physical activity, health and quality of life, as well as on what physical activities are performed on a daily basis. The fifth question originally appeared on the list of questions for the second interview that were designed to focus on what activities the research participants would like to do, and those that they do not do. However, as the first interview progressed it became natural to talk about the physical activities the research participants would like to do and some of the things that restrict their ability to be active. A s a result, I included this question during the first interview instead of the second. A t the end of the first interview I gave the research participants log sheets and asked 88 them to complete the physical activity log exercise (See Appendix E , Physical Activi ty Logs #1 and #2) sometime before the second interview. Between the first and second interviews I also gave the research participants a copy of the transcripts from the discussion group and their first interview. The second interviews were held approximately one month after the first interviews, again in the homes of each of the women during a weekday. I also used a semi-structured interview approach based on eight open ended questions (see Appendix F , Interview #2 Sample Questions) to conduct the second interview. These questions were developed from a list of questions prepared before the data collection began, that I modified after a careful review of the results from the discussion group and the first interviews with consideration of the meanings suggested in the literature. Although a review of the physical activity log was included in the questions for the second interview, only one of the research participants had it completed in time for the interview. The other two participants said they had been too busy to get to it but assured me that they still wanted to complete the log. A s a result, one of the physical activity logs was reviewed during a third meeting, and the log from the woman who recorded her physical activity log on a tape recorder was transcribed following the second interview and then discussed during a telephone call. Each participant was given a transcript of the second interview a month later and I followed up the following week with a visit or phone call to talk about the accuracy of the interview transcripts. During this conversation I described my own interpretation and understanding of their physical activity practices and asked them to comment. While questions about various contradictory statements made during the interviews and differences of opinion between the women were discussed, there were no major disagreements or rejections of my interpretations. I used this strategy to replace my original plan to hold a validation discussion ' 89 group to review the data and emerging themes with the research participants. While I had established a good relationship with each of the women, my invitation to discuss the research in more detail was generally received with indifference. I invited them to ask questions about the research but they were generally more interested in discussing the kinds of things they could do to increase their exercise and how to support their health and well-being through diet and stress management. A s a technique, the in-depth interviews were highly effective for gathering the contextual and interpretive information that I was looking for. Using a second interview was especially effective because it allowed me an opportunity to consider what the research participants told me during the first conversation, reflect on it in light of the literature and my own interpretation, and highlight areas for clarification and development in the second interview. Spending more time with each woman who participated in the study also allowed me to develop a good rapport and gather more personal information than I would probably have been able to do otherwise. I also found using a second interview helpful because it gave me some time to reconsider my original questions. Several times after the first interviews I read some literature that enhanced my reflection on the conversations and I believe greatly improved the quality of the questions for the second interviews. M y intention through the use of interviews designed around semi-structured and open-ended questions was to find a balance between defining what the interviews would be about in order to answer my own questions, and allowing the research participants to speak about their own bodily practices in order to understand what practices are important to them in the context of their daily lives. I believe that because physical activity in daily life is largely an unconscious practice, i f I had asked the research participants to discuss their own issues related to health and well-being, physical activity would have taken a great deal of time to enter in to the discussion, especially in a context other than the dominant norm of fitness and recreation. A s a result, the semi-structured approach worked well because it made an efficient use of limited time at the same time that it provided space for the women who participated in this research to speak about issues that were of concern to them. Physical Activity Logs I originally developed the physical activity log strategy to help the research participants reflect on physical activity that may be an unconscious part of daily life. M y hope was that by paying close attention to what they were doing throughout the day the women in this study would be able to describe physical activity in this context and make explicit the various meanings it may have for them. Traditionally, this research method has been used by exercise researchers attempting to quantify physical activities to calculate caloric expenditure throughout the day (Shephard, 1995), but it has not been used to assess the qualitative experience of physical activity in daily life. However, a log approach has been used to collect qualitative information on health behaviours in research on health in families, with some success (Backett, 1990). I modified the log strategy to collect data on physical activity practices and related feelings in two different ways. The first method was used with two of the research participants and was based on a paper and pencil recording strategy (see Appendix E , Physical Activi ty Log #1) that required them to select a typical weekday and record the activities they did throughout the day, the time they did them, and what they were thinking about or feeling while doing them. The second method was used with one of the research participants and was based on a voice recording strategy (see Appendix E , Physical Activity Log #2) that required the research 91 participant to record the same information as for the paper and pencil log on a small hand-held tape recorder for this purpose. I then transcribed the tape for later discussion. While both of the log techniques collected roughly the same information I found that the paper and pencil method provided more self-reflective information, possibly because each of the participants could go back and consider what she had written.earlier. However this difference could also have been a result of the education and social-class differences between the women. The two women who did the paper and pencil log were quite comfortable writing down their thoughts, while I specifically gave the tape recorder to the woman who did not seem comfortable reading and writing. The research participant who used the tape-recorder appeared to be quite relieved that she did not have to write things down, and I think she felt a bit special to be the only one to try out this technique. In general the results from all of the logs did not provide any specific insight into physical activity in daily life, but mainly confirmed the data that had been collected during the interviews. Descriptive Assessment of the Community and Community Mapping Exercise One Saturday morning during the time between the first and second in-depth interviews I took four hours to travel through the community on bicycle, mapping the location of grocery stores and other consumer services, the public health office and other social services, community and recreation centres, and parks. I decided to wait until after the first interview so that I would be able to include any specific locations mentioned by the research participants. Doing the assessment before the second interview also allowed me fo ask the women questions about any of the things that I saw during the assessment. This proved to be a very useful way to get to know the community. In addition to creating a map o f the community, I recorded my subjective 92 impressions of the area as field notes in my research journal. The purpose of this exercise was to use a descriptive assessment of the community to create a 'snap-shot' o f the community with respect to resources and opportunities to be physically active and to support health, well-being and personal safety. A n d although my perspective is invariably incomplete as I do not live in this community and I view it though a middle-class lens, this qualitative assessment was helpful for considering the context and physical location of physical activity for the research participants. In preparation for the descriptive assessment I reviewed documents related to the demographics, lifestyle and social statistics for the community and the housing project. These included items such as recreation centre brochures, the City of Vancouver web-site, and annual reports from various social service organizations. f expected this review of documents to present an image of the community that was simplistic and overly optimistic. Instead I found that the literature included a large number of leisure and recreation programs and services that appeared to be diverse and inclusive. A t the same time, serious social issues such as problems of H I V infection and teen pregnancy were represented in a realistic and helpful way. The greatest difficulty with the document review seemed to be related to utilizing the information. One of the brochures from the local health unit indicated that they had a new nutrition program being offered for free once a week. When I tried to follow up, the office had never heard about the program. A s another example, I had to bypass the front desk in a local community centre and go straight to a program director to get a copy of the brochure because the office had run out. I had a sense that i f I had not been a "nice middle-class woman" the director would not have gone out of his way to find a brochure for me. However, while these problems would have made it more difficult for the research participants to access programs in the 93 community, these constraints do not seem to be that different from accessing any program being offered by a large bureaucratic organization. M y own observations of the community were reinforced by discussing the community with the research participants through the community mapping exercise. During the second in-depth interview I asked the research participants to highlight the places they travel to on a daily, weekly and monthly basis on a photocopy of a map of their community (see Appendix F, Interview #2 Sample Questions). This exercise was very useful as a technique for understanding the context for the activities they described during the interviews, as well as to develop a sense of the neighbourhood and how the various parts are used and experienced by the research participants. Through this process I found that my sense of the community was generally confirmed by the research participants. On the one hand this helped me to feel that I had a good understanding of the context, while on the other it made me nervous that I was missing something as I expected to find at least a few discrepancies. However, mapping the community confirmed that the boundaries used for city planning were not in line with the way the research participants actually experience the community in daily life. This alone suggests that combining the community assessment with the mapping exercise is a useful data collection method. Participant Observation The use of participant observation evolved as a strategy for collecting information on the unconscious thoughts and behaviours of the individual research participants in the context of daily life (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). M y initial assumption was that differences and similarities in observed and reported behaviour would be useful for interpreting the meaning and 94 practice of physical activity in daily life.. The original plan was to observe each participant for approximately half of a day at three different times throughout the week, including the.weekend. While this would have been ideal in order to capture different physical activity requirements based on the variety of responsibilities incorporated in the totality of daily life, it proved to be highly ambitious because of the intrusiveness as well as the time commitment required by the participants and myself as the researcher. Instead, I modified the observation strategy to include only the shadowing of one research participant from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a typical weekday. I selected the research participant with the one year old child for this research method because she was agreeable to being observed and because her day was highly structured by her responsibilities as a mother. I did not pursue this strategy with the other two women in part because I did not have time, and in part because I had a sense from them that it would be an imposition, possibly because their day times were organized around activities other than childcare. It is interesting to note here that participant observation has been effectively used by many ethnographers (see Marshall & Rossman, 1995 and Patton, 1990 for examples), but other than observations of sport specific performance, no studies in the recreation and sport literature were uncovered that use this technique to examine physical activity in daily life. Although I modified the observation technique into a shadowing strategy, I found this method particularly valuable because not only did it provide me with additional data, it gave me an opportunity to reciprocate the time and support being given to me by the research participant. For example, during the observation I brought over home-made soup for lunch arid helped with the transportation of her son during bus rides to do errands. While it was not a completely natural 95 experience for either of us, I had the sense that she enjoyed having the company and someone to talk to about the various health and well-being issues that concerned her. In preparation for the observation I created a checklist of observation cues to help me notice relevant things and guide me through my reflections while writing field notes (see Appendix G , Participant Observation Cues). I found the checklist to be a good reminder to note certain things, but the qualitative notes that I made during this process were the most useful. Throughout the observation we engaged in informal conversation and just 'hung out'. Although the situation was somewhat artificial because of my presence, and may have constrained physical activity in some respect because she knew she was being watched, the time we spent together was generally relaxed. We had some far-ranging conversations which went from the latest movies to the meaning of life and allowed me to get to know her in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. While I did write a few notes during the day, most of my writing was done in my research journal in the evening, allowing me to reflect on the day. Field Notes I recorded field notes in the form of a research journal throughout the research project. These notes documented observations, personal impressions and decision-making during the entire research process including the discussion group, in-depth interviews, the descriptive assessment of the community, and the participant observation. In addition to my observations that commented on the physical attributes of the community setting and research participants, the field notes included subjective reflections on my personal response to the research process and participants, the consideration of potential explanations and alternatives, and the exploration of issues that arose throughout the data collection and analysis. 96 Although the research process had been carefully planned to accommodate possible issues and limitations, unexpected questions and concerns arose throughout the process requiring flexibility in the study design (Lather, 1991; Marshall & Rossman, 1995; Patton, 1990). For example, the research questions for the second interviews had to be modified after the first interview covered more information than I had initially planned. I also developed the mapping exercise in the middle of the interview process because I found that discussion of the community did not arise spontaneously during the interviews and I felt I heeded to make ; these issues explicit. The field notes were used to document these issues and describe the rationale for changes to the methodology throughout each stage of the research. This was particularly important later in the research process when I found it more difficult, to remember the details of the decisions I had made at the beginning of the process, especially as the amount of data grew. Using field notes in the form of a research journal to reflect feelings, worries and the unfolding of the study was also personally effective for helping me make explicit the decisions I wrestled with along the way, how my relationship with the participants developed, and how my personal assumptions and ideology were challenged. I believe that in light of the practical, organizational and emotional issues that field notes assist with, field notes in the form of a research journal is crucial for anyone engaging in qualitative research. Answering the Research Question on Method M y strategy of using a discussion group in combination with in-depth interviews proved to be very effective considering the exploratory nature of the research and the fact that the small sample size allowed two interviews with each of the three research participants. The use of semi-structured interview questions was also productive as it allowed some context and theory -. • • • ' 97. specific linkages, while maintaining space for the research participants to speak about what was important to them with respect to physical activity. When combined with the descriptive assessment of the community, the community mapping exercise, the day-long participant observation, and the physical activity logs, this primarily ethnographic strategy allowed for practice, meaning and context to be made explicit. The data collected using the interview strategy was especially effective in considering physical activity in the traditional context of lifestyle, including both practices of physical activity and associated meanings. What the interviews did not allow for, and what I was hoping the participant observation and physical activity log strategies would get at, was the potential for practices that may not have ever been considered to be "physical activity". Unfortunately, i f these types of practices do exist (as I suspect they do), they are located in the most private part of life, are probably highly unconscious, and possibly include such activities as walking around to facilitate thought, household tasks broken down into very small and repetitive actions, or a highly ordered life to minimize repetition, to name a few examples that come to mind from my own life. There is the potential for the participant observation in the home to get at this private experience. However, I believe it would have to be more of an "observation" rather than the "shadowing" activity that occurred during this study, and it would ideally be based on a very familiar and comfortable personal relationship developed over time, which may not be practical for most researchers. A promising alternative however, may be a modification of the random beeper strategy used by Csikszentmihalyi in his research on the optimum experience called "flow" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, cited in Gallagher, 1993). He randomly paged subjects eight times per day for a week and had the individuals write down what they were doing (although they could also have recorded impressions on a tape-recorder), to investigate the relationship 98 between our daily responses to life the challenges it presents to us. "Despite scientific prejudice, subjective experience is one of the most objective things we can deal with" (Gallagher, 1993, p. 171). A strategy such as this could be potentially useful to get at the subjective experience of daily life and therefore physical activity in this context. In general, I would argue that a strategy using these qualitative and ethnographic methods is the best approach to get at the public and private meanings and practices of physical activity in daily life, especially for a traditionally marginalized group such as low-income single mothers who are difficult to access using other methods (Standing, 1998). However, these research methods also have several limitations i f used on a larger scale. Researching a larger population would require a considerable amount of time and human resources. Interpretation of the data would also become more complicated i f the amount of data and number of researchers was increased. Ultimately, repeating this study with a larger and more diverse group such as with low-income single mothers who do not live in a housing project would underscore different practices and meanings that could potentially be important for understanding physical activity in daily life. The only significant change to the data collection methods that I would recommend for researching such a population is related to the method obtaining the research participants. Following Standing (1998) and her research with lone mothers in England, I would recommend a "snowball" technique to locate women who may be interested in participating. A s many researchers have found, working-class women often do not respond to requests for interviews in written . form, especially on 'official ' stationery . . . snowballing methods . . . allowed access to women who may not have responded to more 'conventional' methods . . . [and gave] access to women [who would not have been] . . . contacted otherwise, because they did not fit [the researcher's] definition of a lone mother (Standing, 1998, p. 188). 99 Managing and Analyzing Data Data Management I began the process of bringing order to the data even before I started to collect the data in order to ensure the path of the research process could be easily reviewed and reconstructed (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). This involved establishing an ongoing research journal to keep track of my thoughts, concerns and the decisions I made along the way. In addition to written field notes in the research journal, I recorded the data using tape recordings of the discussion group and in-depth interviews, as well as for one of the physical activity logs. Each tape was transcribed and the transcriptions were used as the primary data source for my analysis. Other types of data included copies of the physical activity logs completed by the research participants, copies of the maps used in the community mapping exercise, and copies of brochures and pamphlets collected during the descriptive assessment of the community. Each of these data sources was carefully labeled and filed for easy reference. A s the data was collected, I reviewed it and made notes in my research journal about interesting comments or pieces of information. I also used the research journal to note questions or possible connections between pieces of data as they occurred to me. This was particularly effective following the first in-depth interview when I used my notes to reflect on the relationship between the discussion group, the interview and the literature to develop the questions for the second interview. I read and re-read the transcripts from the discussion group and the in-depth interviews many times in an attempt to absorb as many possible nuances in the language and ideas as I could. I was quite fortunate that I had only three research participants, as it enabled me to recall their voices and gestures easily while reading our conversations, and made 100 iteasy for me to find the exact point in the conversation that I was looking for at any given moment. However, the formal analysis of grouping the data into categories and looking for themes, relationships and explanations was done with the aid of a computer and specialized software program. Data Analysis Procedures Because I was unfamiliar with qualitative data analysis software I reviewed several articles on selecting an appropriate software (Miles & Weitzman, 1994; Richards & Richards, 1993) and discussed the options with other researchers who had used various programs. This information suggested that either of the two programs I had easy access to would be appropriate for my needs: Nud.ist and Atlas.ti. Before selecting one or the other, I used both for the process of coding my discussion group data. The ease of manipulating the data in a Windows environment, as well as the ability to describe relationships between data in a relational rather than hierarchical way, helped me to select Atlas.ti for my analysis. Once the data was loaded into the Atlas.ti program, I coded the transcripts from the discussion group and the in-depth interviews by highlighting 'chunks' of the text and assigning one or more words or 'codes' to describe the 'meaning' of each piece. After coding the data once, I reviewed the codes and combined any that seemed redundant. Then I re-read all of the data by reviewing groups of quotations coded as one code or one family of codes. Separating the chunks of data from the sequence in which it had been collected was an extremely effective strategy because it allowed me to disconnect the data from the flow of the interviews and use a fresh perspective to perceive potentially new meanings. Using this process I was able to search for meanings that challenged my original codes and re-code quotations as necessary. This - . • ' < 101 process also allowed me to notice contradictions in the data and to generate new categories and observe patterns. The 'meanings' that were used to code the data came from the voices of the women who participated in this research, as well as from my research questions and from the theory located in the literature. This process was used as a kind of 'grounded analysis', allowing me to develop meanings and theories, and consider them in light of alternative explanations. In this way the themes were tested for logic and trustworthiness (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). The final themes that were constructed from the data were then grouped into categories of meaning (see Figure 2). I used these categories in combination with the organizing framework (Figure 1) to address my original research questions and consider possible explanations that have been developed as analytic concepts in the final chapter. The next chapter presents the data in a personal way by telling the stories of the women who participated in this study. The data themes are presented at the end of the chapter in preparation for the discussion of the research questions and implications of the research for understanding physical activity in the daily lives of low-income single mothers. 102 C H A P T E R I V P R E S E N T A T I O N O F T H E D A T A The women who participated in this study are central to this story of physical activity in daily life. A s unique individuals, Rachel, Morgan and Christina (the pseudonyms for.the three women who were the primary participants in this study) come from a variety of backgrounds, all working in their own way to be good mothers and strong women in pursuit of happiness for their families and themselves. A s low-income single mothers they share a common experience that gives them insight into the meaning and practice of physical activity in daily life, an experience which includes survival on minimal social assistance payments, frequent feelings of social isolation, and parenting demands which provide them with almost no time for themselves. While this research is not designed to be a series of case studies, the small number of women who participated enable the data to be presented in a very personal way, hopefully capturing the personality and passion of the women who contributed, and ultimately adding depth to the meanings that emerge.. In recognition of the centrality of the women and their personal experiences of daily life, this chapter begins with a description of the housing project and community in which they live. The description of the community is followed by a personal profile of each of the women who participated in this study and their families. The discussion then continues with the central issue of the practice of physical activity in daily life. This is followed by a section that considers the importance of change as a theme in daily life by exploring how the research participants understand their journeys to this place in their lives, and how they see future change happening, with a focus on physical activity. A n d finally, the discussion turns to the physical, emotional, 103 and knowledge based resources each individual research participant has (or does not have) to support physical activity in daily life. The Community The women who participated in this research live in Cedar Court, a five year old housing project for low-income single mothers operated by a large social service organization. From the outside the building looks like a new low-rise condominium development on a corner lot with egg-shell vinyl siding, purplish-blue trim and surrounded by a high wooden fence. The building has 26 two- to three-bedroom units with balconies on the upper floors and small patios on the ground floor. While the inside of the building feels like a typical apartment building, the extra security at the entrance is noticeable. The front walkway is closed off from the street by a latched gate and the intercom system for buzzing the apartments does not have any names listed beside the apartment numbers, with the exception of the administrative office and one or two tenants. The importance of security in the lives of these women was highlighted for me one day when I was there to drop off some information and I bumped in to Christina out in front of the building. While we were chatting Christina noticed a man trying to get in to one of the patios through the outside fence. She immediately asked him who he was looking for and i f she could help him, which seemed to help him decide to use the front intercom. She mentioned that the woman who was l iving across the hall from her had been having some problems and that this may be the man concerned. Security at Cedar Court is not only locks and gates and labels on buzzers, but the eyes and ears of the tenants as well . This contributes to the feeling of safety, but as Rachel notes, it has its disadvantages. 104 "The safety within Cedar Court, I love that. I love the fact that I know everybody in the building, my kids know everybody, all the kids know each other, and everybody kind of watches out for everybody else . . . but then that can also be a detriment too, 'cause everybody's in your business all the time." (Rachel, interview #1) The women who are accepted into the housing project are single mothers under the age of 35 and often come from other programs operated by the social service organization. They must apply for the program, be interviewed and then be on a wait list that can last for several months. Through the interview process the organization tries to ensure that the women who are accepted have a sense of shared community values and are wil l ing to participate in the operation of the project. The rent is set at 30% of gross income which works out to approximately $200 per month for most of the women on social assistance. A s the women find work and their income increases, the rent increases proportionally until it becomes cheaper for them to leave Cedar Court and rent an apartment in the open market. The housing project was built approximately 5 years ago and even though there are no time restrictions on tenancy, the general pattern has been for families to live there 2 to 3 years with 6 to 8 units coming open each year. Cedar Court is operated by a part-time administrator and a part-time community development coordinator. The woman who acts as the administrator oversees the management and maintenance of the building while Jennifer, the community development coordinator, facilitates participation of the tenants in the operation of project, provides some structure for the community, and resolves conflicts as necessary. She describes her job as not to operate as a social worker specifically, but more as a consultant and facilitator to help the tenants work as a group to deal with issues in Cedar Court, as well as a one-to-one listener and advisor for the women who come to see her. Jennifer understands the issues low-income single mothers face as 105 she has been one herself, and in fact she provided important advice to Christina at a time when she was deciding whether or not to declare bankruptcy. While the building generally feels like a typical low-rise apartment, many of the common areas feel more like a community centre. There are bulletin boards in the main foyer, the laundry room, and beside the elevator on each floor with notices posted about issues of concern to local moms like upcoming workshops, newspaper clippings, and garage sales. The laundry room itself is on the main floor instead of the basement as it is in most apartment buildings, and has windows making it feel bright, comfortable and safe. The multi-purpose room with furniture, toys and a kitchen is located next to the laundry room and is often used for childcare when meetings are being held down the hall. There is also a grassy area enclosed beside the building with a sandy play-box for kids and a few small garden plots for the tenants. The space used for meetings and as an office by the community development coordinator is actually an apartment on the first floor. It has couches, tables, a desk, toys for the kids and a kitchen. It gives the feeling of being in someone's home, but not as personal. The apartments of the women who participated in this study are quite similar to each other, although each woman has put her own individual mark on her home environment. The walls are off-white and the carpets are beige. The kitchens are modern and include a dishwasher and a reasonable amount of counter space. The biggest structural differences seem to be related to the amount of light each unit gets. Morgan's unit is on the second floor and faces south so she gets lots of sunshine but finds that causes it to get unbearably hot in the summer. In contrast, Christina's unit is on the first floor at the garden level and faces north. This significantly limits the amount of light she gets and gives her apartment the feeling of being closed in. Rachel sits somewhere between the two as she also faces north but is on the second floor. 106. Each apartment was clean and relatively orderly during my visits (possibly because of my visits!), although the size of the space makes things feel cluttered. Each woman has collected furniture from friends, family, other women in the building and by searching second-hand stores in the neighbourhood. A s Rachel commented to me, when she moved here she had nothing but garbage bags full o f clothes and now she has a completely furnished and comfortable apartment. A s a result the style of each apartment tends to be diverse with several generations of furniture occupying the same space. Personalizing their space has taken different forms for each woman. Rachel has pictures and family photos on the walls and a hand-crafted wooden welcome sign on her door, while Morgan has plants all around her apartment. Christina has used her sewing machine to make curtains for the windows and drapery around the entrance to the kitchen. Each apartment feels safe, comfortable and'homey'. Outside the front door of Cedar Court is a major road that is heavily used by motorized traffic. However just a few blocks away is a large city park with a small lake, walking paths and a community centre that contains a gym and ice-rink among other things. A few blocks in the other direction is a Skytrain station that regularly has street people camped out in front. There is no doubt this community is one of contrasts and diversity. A s was described earlier, there are a number of ethnic groups concentrated in this community which appears to influence the way the research participants utilize the recreation centres. For example, although the pool at one of the local community centres is newer, shallow and warmer for young children, the women in this study have not really considered using the facility even though it is just a few blocks further away than the other community centre that has the pool they prefer to use. This may be because the newer centre is up a large hi l l and 'feels' like it is outside the neighbourhood due to its location. Or it may be because this community centre appears to cater to the large local Asian population 107 with Chinese signs and brochures clearly visible outside and inside the facility as I observed during my community assessment: It is a beautiful morning, with the sun warming Vancouver for the first time in at least a week. The temperature is climbing steadily and it feels like spring. I am sitting on a park bench overlooking the park and community centre ... I can hear the call of seagulls and crows as they wander over the grass in search of breakfast being chased by the occasional dog, and the chattering of the Asian women as they walk up and down the hill on the asphalt path. Some of the women walk up and down several times, while one older woman works her way to the top with frequent stops to rest on her cane and chat with friends. More Asians are in the empty parking lot at the bottom of the hill following the controlled and elegant moves of their tai chi instructor. As I get closer I notice they have a tape deck playing oriental music to accompany their exercises. The feeling is one of serenity and beauty ... the sign outside the community centre advertises "Fitness and Pool, open till 10pm", and to "Register now for ballroom dancing and swim lessons " ... once I get to the main doors I see there are additional banners hung over the doors which I can Y read because they are in two different Asian languages. I wonder if these signs advertise the Chinese New Year swim that, according to the brochure, was part of a big celebration last week and included decorations, music and snacks. (Community Assessment Field Notes) The diversity in the community is carried through to the ' look' of the neighbourhood. A s was described earlier, there are a number of beautiful and well-maintained heritage homes standing right beside houses built during an influx of immigrants after WWII that have been allowed to run down. However, the feeling in the residential areas of this community is one of a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood. As I continue on I get a sense that people know each other in this, neighbourhood. A couple of young guys driving a big old American car stop to yell up to a buddy in a second story window. The house, which dates from around 1940, is set a few feet back from the road and has ugly brown stucco that is starting to crumble. Just down the block in a small well-cared for park next to an elementary school, a young dad with a yuppie stroller is walking with his 3-year old son. A neighbour calls out from the back deck of a freshly painted house with white gingerbread trim to ask about how the renovations are coming along. Coming from across the park, shrieks of glee can be heard as a 2-year old plays tag with his dad, and the kids on the monkey bars call out to their friends bicycling across the grass. (Community Assessment Field Notes) 108 The shopping district in the neighbourhood is as diverse as its residents with a number of organic food stores, funky gift shops, restaurants, pubs and second-hand clothing stores. Central to this area is a large community service centre that is the recreation centre most used by the women in this study. It was built in 1975 to meet the needs of an inadequately served inner-city community. This part of Vancouver has only 0.4 hectares of park land per 1,000 people compared to the city average of 1.12 and did not get a library until the 1970's (City of Vancouver, 1996). This community centre is an integrated facility run by a local board and supported by the Vancouver Park Board, Vancouver School Board, the City of Vancouver, and the Vancouver Public Library. It offers a pool, rink, racquet courts, three gyms, a library, seniors centre, teen centre and both elementary and secondary schools. It is an important part of the community but has a very different character than the other two community centres nearby. I cycle past the youth theatre and turn onto the main road in the neighbourhood. The street is hopping this morning, with every type of person out doing errands, working, chatting with friends, exercising or just soaking up the sunshine. There are numerous funky cafes, patios and food shops for breakfast or a snack, including two shops specializing in organic produce and other herbal products. The people walking by are various shapes, sizes, and colours. Some appear to be students, others look like artisans mixed in with the more 'alternative' crowd. There are lots of dangly silver earrings, dreadlocks and Birckenstock sandals. People are alone and in groups, some with,their children and others holding hands with a same-sex partner. The feeling is vibrant and comfortable. Directly behind the shops on the main road is the large community centre complex ... including a community policing office ... Leisure Access Cards [subsidized] can be used here and a membership gives access to programs at several other community centres in the community, but interestingly not to the newer community centre up the hill. I stop in at the information office and am given a brochure by a staffperson (or volunteer?) who is very friendly and encouraging. He looks to be in his 60's, low-income, wearing clean but mismatched clothes. He offers to answer any questions I might have and is an excellent ambassador for a program centre that is working to be accessible to everyone in the community that it serves. (Community Assessment Field Notes) 109 But like the diverse community it is, this neighbourhood has a rough side that is evident even on a sunny Saturday morning. The tone changes significantly between further up the main road. In the entranceway of a major bank building a group of homeless native men crouch watching the pedestrians go by. This image, with the shiny copper windows of the bank as the backdrop, creates an ironic post-modern image. Suddenly there are more second-hand shops selling clothes and furniture, fewer banks and more pawn shops and cheque cashing businesses. A blue cloud of cigarette smoke hangs above the mass ofpeople waiting for the Legion to open at noon. The LRT Station is busy and dirty with a couple more homeless people sitting against one concrete wall that I would need to walk past if I wanted to go to the Safeway just behind the station. Traveling away from the station I pass a small park that is divided by a major thoroughfare heavily used by trucks. I decide that I would worry about the safety of my kids if they played here. I notice a young native woman sitting on a swing by herself looking as if she is holding back tears. I ride by wondering what made her sad. (Community Assessment Field Notes) This is the context for the daily lives of Rachel, Christina, Morgan and their children. In many ways it contributes to and explains the rhythms and qualities of each day for these low-income single mothers. Profiles of the Women •• Rachel Rachel is the longest resident of the Cedar Court housing project and has been very involved as a volunteer and unofficial 'staff person in the day-to-day operation of the project. She is the mother of two boys aged 4 and 8 and has been a mother since she was 19 years old. They have lived in Cedar Court for just over 3 years and Rachel is starting to feel like it is time to get back into the 'real world ' , as she explains when asked about a job preparation course she w i l l be taking: " . . . I've done the single mom thing. I've lived in a single mothers' environment now, for you know like 5 years, 6 years and it was important in the beginning when I first moved in here for the boys to see that there are other families like no ours. But now I also feel like it's important for them to see men and women living together, women and women living together, men and men, whatever . . . and I 'm also starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed that everything I do is related to single mothers, or to women, or to my whole life, everybody around me is a woman. A n d now that I 'm doing this course and that kind of thing, once I 'm out in the job world I need to start feeling comfortable being around males and that sort of thing, and you don't get that here." (Rachel, interview #1) Rachel is also no stranger to poverty. She was brought up in a blue-collar home that did not have much money and she is quite proud of her ability to do more with less. "That's what I was saying to you about money not being a really huge issue . . . I mean they want for nothing. I mean sure, there's a lot more I could use or a lot . more I think I could do with but no, I don't worry about i t . . . " (Rachel, interview #2) A t the time of the interviews Rachel had registered for a pre-employment training program offered by a local education and employment social service organization. This program is geared to people with children receiving income assistance and l iving in the east side of Vancouver and includes career exploration, job-search skills, educational upgrading, parenting education and support, and computer skills among other things. Rachel felt that this program would help her find work outside of the food service area where all o f her previous work experience had been, which she described as physically demanding with long hours and poor pay. She is looking for a career, possibly in an office, that would allow her to support her family and provide her with a positive work environment. Unfortunately it may be difficult for her to make this transition because she does not have her high school diploma. She basically stopped going to school when she was 15 because she "hated it" and officially quit in grade 10 when she turned 16. N o w at the age of 28, Rachel sees that she is at a new stage of her life. Her youngest son wi l l be starting kindergarten in a year and as her children become more independent she has i l l more time to focus on herself and finding work. Neither of the fathers of the two boys are involved in their lives at all , but Rachel has had a steady boyfriend for the past few years and her children have grown close to his family who live not too far away in a suburb of Vancouver. Rachel is a no-nonsense type of person who faces life with a great deal of equanimity as she searches for good second-hand clothes for her kids, fixes plugged toilets in the building, or deals with the discrimination her youngest son faces as a visible minority. But she also struggles with being a smoker and being overweight and the impact that has on her self-esteem, along with the stress and fatigue of being a low-income single parent. " . . . I 'm not l iving high on the hog or. anything like that, but I also have very simple tastes . . . like I said, I mean, I 'm very simple, so it's not like I have these big [goals], you know . . . " (Rachel, interview #2) Christina Christina is the same age as Rachel (28) but only recently became a mother. Her son was a 13-month old at the time of the interviews and had just learned to walk. Like Rachel, Christina considers this to be at time of change in her life. A s her son grows more independent every day she gains more confidence as a mother. She is starting to plan for the future and take control of her life. Christina sees her greatest accomplishment in recent months as her ability to make a plan and carry it out. " . . . I 'm so proud that I've been making these accomplishments . . . I was starting things and I 'd plan it a l l . . . and then I would find . . . oh I don't feel like doing it, or I don't have the energy, or I can't do it. Or I 'm just feeling like I 'm not good enough . . . to accomplish things." (Christina, interview #2) When Christina got pregnant she was working in a number of part-time and manual labour jobs, including in a warehouse and as a security guard. A t the time of her pregnancy Christina found that she was somewhat limited in her job prospects because she had not 112 completed her college diploma. Following high school, she had eventually studied forestry for a couple of years at a college in northern Ontario before returning to B C . Christina was also struggling financially because she had not filed tax returns for over 7 years and was not receiving as much money through social assistance as she could have been. One of her recent accomplishments was facing this issue and taking control of her life by declaring bankruptcy and starting to build a new life for herself and her son. Christina was also planning to continue her education and was starting to find out i f her college credits could be used toward a dental hygiene diploma which she would like to take by correspondence i f possible. She also managed to make a bit of extra money by cleaning for some of the other women in the building. The father df her baby has not been involved with the family at all and Christina was so destitute during her pregnancy that she lived in a shelter for single mothers during her pregnancy. However, after the baby was born she did receive some support from her mother who lives in a distant Vancouver suburb. Christina's relationship with her family has been difficult because although she grew up in a two-parent, white, middle-class household, she has never gotten along with her step-father. Her step-father did not want her to keep the baby, which combined with some other family issues, made her decide that she would not take the baby to her parents' house any more. She also asked her mother to stop pulling her in to family problems. Over the past year that Christina has lived in Cedar Court she has relied more and more heavily on her boyfriend, who is not the father of her baby but who supported her emotionally through the pregnancy and who has become very close with her son. The help of another adult is very much appreciated, but most importantly because of the unconditional nature in which it is offered. 113 " . . . I was really happy that, and really lucky that... i f I ask him to do something he does it. There's no kind of like 'Oh , god, she's asking me to do something', he ' l l just do it and he ' l l be happy about it." (Christina, interview #1) However, Christina finds being overweight and struggling to meet the needs of a toddler as a single mother a challenge to her self-esteem. Through daily reminders to herself that her needs are a priority as well , and planning to take care of her health through meditation and exercise, her confidence is growing. " I 'm feeling more confident now that yes, I need some time to myself and to feel like I 'm doing something for myself." (Christina, interview #1) Morgan Morgan is lhe oldest of the three women and at 32 she is dealing with the end of her marriage, preparing for September when her son starts kindergarten, and trying to find personal direction for her life. A s with the other women who participated in this study, Morgan is going through a period of change. Her divorce from a man who abused her w i l l be finalized shortly, her son is becoming more independent and spending more time with his dad, and she has started taking courses at a college with the thought that she may eventually want to transfer to a university to do a B A in humanities. "So my aim in going back to school was to sample different courses . . . to really try and identify what it is I should sink my energies into. So, it's got several different functions — kick-starting my brain, testing my intellect, and sampling different subjects to see where I should concentrate." (Morgan, interview #1) Morgan has lived at Cedar Court for almost a year and has been a landed immigrant in Canada for almost two years. She originally came to Canada from England in 1992 as a visitor but stayed to work and married a Canadian. She has done a variety of jobs around the world including mushroom picker, photographer assistant, headhunter assistant and stage manager. 114 Morgan dropped out of what would be considered the equivalent of grade 12 in Canada and eventually received a diploma in stage management from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. From a Canadian perspective her childhood sounds stereotypically British with boarding schools, holidays at home and solidly middle-class parents, including a father who is a vicar. However, Morgan has struggled with anorexia and a poor body image just as many other Canadian girls and women have. She is still very thin but has become knowledgeable about nutrition and exercise, and is very aware of the things she can do to take care of her health. But like the other low-income single mothers in this study, finding the physical and emotional energy just to take care of the basics seems to be the main focus right now. A n d although Morgan spoke of experiencing significant financial and emotional stress, she seems to be able to balance it with her recognition for a need for direction and purpose. "I sometimes really despair, about how little spiritual content we have in our lives. I think that's another reason for tobogganing and skiing for me, because I 'm out in nature which to me is the most immediate access to something spiritual that we have . . . and it's not really escapism, it's more like developing the sides of myself that are undernourished." (Morgan, interview #1) Daily Life and the Practice of Physical Activity Chores It is very clear that the women in this study consider the work they do to take care of their children and their home to be an important job. This work includes household chores such as planning and cooking meals, feeding children, doing laundry, organizing, cleaning and taking care of children. A n d while the research participants agree that these responsibilities require effort and energy, they do not define this type of physical activity as exercise. -" Y o u know you have to do that 'cause we 'd live in filth and wouldn't eat i f I didn't do those things, right? But I don't really begrudge it a l o t . . . yeah, I complain sometimes, I've got to vacuum again, or whatever . . . I've never really 115 thought of them [chores] as being physically active before, right? It was always just, that was my job, that's what I had to do." (Rachel, interview #1) Some regular household activities such as doing laundry actually require a considerable amount of physical activity, especially when the laundry facilities are two floors down. " . . . but even i f you live on the first floor it's still dragging a huge great big bin full of laundry . . . and actually, I find laundry really tiring . . . I find it quite restful folding clothes and stuff, but the actual physical nature of bending over, bringing it up, bringing it down .. . it 's actually something I associate with pain 'cause I get really a sore back when I 'm doing it." (Morgan, interview #1) A s a result, two of the three women in the study have managed to get a washer and dryer installed in their suites either by purchasing second-hand machines or by leasing them on a rent^ to-own plan. While each unit has a laundry closet with hookups for the machines, they are only large enough to hold a stackable washer/dryer unit which costs more than the. traditional floor model. It surprised me to notice that even with limited resources, having laundry facilities in the suite is a priority. Taking care of their families also involves activities outside the home such as grocery shopping, banking, and transporting children to and from school or day care. In fact, children appear to be the primary influence in the structure of daily life. Childcare, especially for young children, requires constant activity and planning to perform even basic chores, while for older children transportation to and from childcare is the predominant activity. Both Rachel and Morgan have their children in either full-day school or daycare during the week, made possible by the age of their children and the subsidies they receive. Each day, twice a day, they must either walk or take public transportation to drop off and pick up their children. For Morgan this involves a quick stop off the Skytrain on her way to her college downtown. For Rachel this involves approximately a one-hour round trip i f she walks, first to the daycare and then to the 116 school before she loops around to return home. However, she often takes the bus, especially with the kids, to save time and make it a bit easier when it's raining. It seems that any activity involving the transport of children is necessarily tiring and slow since you can only travel as fast as they are able. Christina has the additional challenge of a young child and no regular subsidized childcare. Because she does not have any extra money for baby sitting she uses the emergency services of an inner-city childcare centre called Crabtree Corner. Christina relies on this service as it allows time by herself to do errands, organize activities, or simply be able to make plans that meet her needs. However, the centre is far enough out of her community that she must take public transportation and must arrive early enough in the morning to ensure that she gets one of the two emergency drop-in spaces. The day that I spent with Christina we started the morning with a trip to Crabtree Corner. Today we only spend a few minutes there getting ready to go out. We leave the house and walk 2 blocks to the main road to catch the bus ... it is sometimes difficult to get one of the 2 emergency spots so Christina arrives 15 minutes before the first staff person shows up at 8:30am. It would be faster to take the Skytrain but at this time of the morning it is too crowded to get on with a child and stroller. Christina and Joshua have a free breakfast at Crabtree (cereal, toast, juice, coffee) which is provided to anyone using the service (along with condoms and free clothing and toys from the donations pile) and then he is put in the daycare when it opens at 9am On route to the centre and while we were waiting outside the doors trying to look inconspicuous, we saw lots of people on street corners — groups of young guys, women who look like prostitutes, and the odd person stumbling incoherently still suffering from a night on the street and probably alcohol, drugs and/or mental illness. Down one alley we can see an old man with long hair and beard in grimy clothes muttering incoherently and rolling in the dirt and water. Christina mentions that she doesn 'tlike to have to take Joshua past all this and that she doesn't always feel safe, but she also feels she doesn't have a choice. (Participant Observation Field Notes) One of the most important errands that these women share outside the home is grocery shopping. It is a necessary activity, but it is also viewed as an opportunity to get out of the house. 117 "The one good thing is that it is a nice walk.. I have to go down .. . [to the local organic produce stores] . . . so it's a little bit o f a walk, so it's nice to actually go. Sometimes.I feel like, oh no, it's so far, or I end up just copping out and just going to Safeway. But, it 's nice to go for that walk." (Christina, interview #1) However, grocery shopping also seems,to present the struggle of limited resources arid sirigle parenthood. There is a general resentment about shopping at Safeway, the closest grocery store, because the women say it is too expensive and takes advantage of the low-income families l iving in the community. Rachel tries to do most of her shopping at the Superstore outside of the immediate conimunity and when asked why she explains it this way: "It's actually one of the most expensive Safeways in the lower mainland. A n d do you know why that is?. Because it's convenient, even though you're not really saving any money . . . I say it's cheaper to catch a bus down to Superstore and then take a cab back for five dollars. I save way more . . . yeah you save way more . down there." (Rachel, interview #2) , Both Christina arid Morgan make a conscious effort to buy lots of good quality fruits and vegetables as well as packaged foods that have a minimum of preservatives. Because of this they prefer to do most of their shopping at the organic and natural food stores ori the main road but find that this can be more expensive and not as convenient because of the distance. ' "I've been thinking a lot more about nutrition for myself, but especially for him [Joshua]. So, I've been trying to buy sometimes a lot more organic things, . . . and I notice a big difference in the taste and I notice the quality is a lot better, and not much more expensive, than Safeway is, so . . . I end up going down there." , (Christina, interview #1) Grocery shopping is also a challenge because any activity that requires taking a child along needs planning and time, in addition to the physical difficulty of lugging bulky, heavy things home when walking. "I mean, lugging groceries is .'. . y o u know, no one should have to do it, really." (Morgan, interview.#1) 118 For household chores as a whole, these low-income single mothers are under no illusion that their job has significant social status. The following passage is taken from the discussion group when the women were discussing household chores: "Brenda: .. .well I think that for a lot of things that women do like clean the house, like do the laundry, like mop the floor and vacuum and all that stuff, it 's never been given any credit. It doesn't belong in a category except that it's . . . Morgan: N o , it 's never glamourized... Brenda: Right, it's a woman's role it's not something ... Rachel: It's your job ... Brenda: It's your job, it's something you do... Morgan: It's the role of the unpaid super-menial... Brenda: It's not something that you do for yourself, you know. It's something that you are expected to do for your family . . . and to live up to society's [expectations of] . . . spic and span. Rachel: Yeah. Morgan: A n d it's also something that most people, most men shall we say . . . people wouldn't get their hands dirty doing it unless they were being paid handsomely. Like , do you know what I mean? A l l of us that keep house do, but it's not something that's ever seen as being a desirable thing to do." (Discussion group) This recognition of the low status of the activities these single mothers perform in daily life stands in contrast to their belief that what they do as mothers is an important job and has implications for their understanding and experience of physical activity in daily life. A s for other mothers, it should not be surprising that they have never considered the activities they perform while carrying out household chores could be 'good' for them in the way exercise is. The idea that mothering is a job also has implications for the analysis of physical activity in daily life because it suggests that work done in the home is of an equivalent value to work done in the form of paid employment. Using this perspective, it is clear physical activity performed in connection with household and childcare chores has potentially the same value as that performed in the workplace. However, considering mothering as a job may detract from the issue of the lack of financial compensation for this work, and therefore the lack of value and 119 social power associated with it. In using the idea of mothering as a job in this research, I have chosen to emphasize and value the importance of the work the single-mothers in this study perform. This should not be taken to suggest that the lack of financial compensation or social recognition is unimportant. Physical Activity When asked to explain what "physical activity" is to them, the women in this study started by describing activities such as hiking, working out, swimming and other structured and culturally normative definitions of exercise. These activities were associated with both positive and negative feelings such as sweat, repetitive movement, boredom, effort, fun and a sense of achievement. However when they were asked to consider the physical activity that they do every day as part o f daily life they quickly made a distinction between "physical activity" and "exercise". The types of activities that were viewed as physical activity were household chores such as cleaning, vacuuming, changing beds, laundry, and errands. Also included were other activities important for performing these chores such as climbing stairs, walking to do errands, taking care of children, going to the park, and having a relaxing bath after the children have gone to bed. These activities were noted as very distinct from structured activities that are normally performed outside the home such as lifting weights for toning, aerobics, using a stationary bike or treadmill, the manual labour required for a job, swimming, jogging or playing sports. "I mean, there's a lot of ways of being physical I guess, but usually people think of it as working out or doing something extra like going swimming, or doing an activity, or walking, or going out and actually doing something. But in a lot of ways I can see physical activity, just doing regular household work, can be physical too. But usually I think to be healthy, you need a little bit more energy given off by actually going for like a jog or a swim or a walk or whatever. So, I think for me I consider it something like an extra activity that I actually take time 120 out of my day to do . . . there's different categories of it I guess . . . different levels." (Christina, interview #1). It is clear that the research participants recognize there is a socially accepted definition of exercise that revolves around structured workouts and sport, and that physical activity can be considered in a much broader context. However, these women make the additional distinction between physical activity and exercise based on the benefit to the body, implying an intensity requirement although not saying so explicitly. If the activity is repetitive and requires effort, it is good for the body and therefore labeled as exercise. Unfortunately this distinction leads to a contradiction when the effort and repetitiveness of physical activity in daily life is articulated. A s a result, what becomes important to distinguish between physical activity and exercise is the 'thoughtfulness' with which the activity is done. " O K , let's put it this way. I think that physical activities are things that you're doing everyday and you don't realize maybe, that they're things that are good for you, you know what I mean? Walking up and down the stairs because you're doing a job, right? So it is exercise in a sense but you're not looking at it that way .. . physical activity is stuff that you're doing everyday that is working you're muscles and doing all that stuff, but you're not thinking of it that way." (Rachel, interview #1) This distinction is crucial for understanding how an activity done in one context can mean something completely different in another. Generally, activities such as walking and climbing stairs performed while doing chores are done in a haphazard manner and are not refreshing physically or psychologically. While the women in this study recognize that housework has the potential to be good exercise and that there is often a sense of accomplishment associated with it, it is generally something they "have to get through" (Morgan, Discussion group) and "doesn't count as time spent working on the body" (Brenda, Discussion group). 121 " Y o u end up feeling like it's actually denying your body, because . . . I have really sore muscles a lot of the time from just the basic grind of it. It doesn't feel good to my body, I don't end up feeling refreshed and toned. I end up feeling like an old donkey that's been down in the pits for a while!" (Morgan, Discussion group) A n d even i f the body is not feeling taxed by the chore being performed, the mind is off somewhere else. "Like I said earlier, you're not thinking about yourself or your body, you're just thinking about everything else you have to do ... so you don't have any time to sort of be by yourself and think ' O K , I 'm gonna go for a jog, or I 'm gonna go do aerobics, or I 'm gonna go hiking' and just concentrate on those things . . . where you're thinking of it consciously you're doing some good, but ninety-nine percent of the time I 'm sure you're not — [you're thinking] I've got to do the damn laundry, then I've got to do those freaking dishes, you know . . . " (Rachel, Discussion group) In an attempt to combat some of the stress related to the burden of responsibility these women struggle with on a daily basis, two o f the research participant have made an effort to do 'affirmations', or positive self-talk, while doing unpleasant or boring tasks. For example, it was f mid-December during the first discussion group and the women were coping with the planning and errands necessary to prepare for Christmas. "I've started doing affirmations while I've been Christmas shopping, saying this is how I get myself fit, as I carry the bags home ... recently I've started to think they [physical activity and exercise] are the same thing 'cause I have just started doing affirmations, so I really try to think positive thoughts into what I 'm doing." (Morgan, Discussion group) State of mind is obviously very important for the enjoyment of an activity, whether it is considered physical activity or exercise. However, even i f an activity is enjoyable, exercise is described as being more socially and physically valuable. Just as physical activity in daily life is associated with chores and therefore not valued in spite of the effort they require, exercise is something that is glamourized in the media and has a large number of potential benefits. The research participants attribute many benefits to exercise including "improved health", "enhanced 122 well-being", "increase in energy", "release of endorphins", "increase in metabolism and hunger", and just generally "feeling better". The following quote from the discussion group indicates that this belief in the benefits of exercise appears is accepted without question. . "Morgan: Yeah, it 's been dnimmed into me. Brenda: Yeah, for me . . . Rachel: For all of us Morgan: I mean we've always been told that, you know .. . get plenty of exercise. Brenda: I've always practiced that, I mean I've always been very physical. So for me, it's always been a part and only the last several years it really hasn't been. But yeah, I definitely believe." (Discussion group) A n d in spite of the stated belief in the large number of benefits attributed to exercise, this does not mean that exercise is something that is enjoyed or engaged in frequently. In fact, the resources required to be able to engage in exercise on a daily basis are beyond the reach of the participants in this study. While each of the women can identify a time or activity when exercise was a positive experience, the general sense is that exercise requires too much physical and emotional effort, in addition to a basic fitness level and time and energy requirements that are not available to them at this time in their lives. "I find life such a struggle that I don't want to have to do anything that's a struggle. So physical activity in my mind is equated with being a struggle, and the feeling of exertion, of effort, that comes when you're trying to pedal on a pedaling bike in the gym. I find it oppressive because that's the kind of feeling I 'm having in my mind all day, and I 'm on this bike and it's so hard to pedal over a h i l l ! It's like, this is how I feel, this is just more of the feeling I get when I 'm trying to deal with the outside world, trying to be a single mother, trying to survive on not much money, and it just reminds me of all that." (Morgan, interview #1) Recreation and Exercise Exercise is not a part of daily life for these low-income single mothers, although it is included in less regular weekly and monthly recreation activities. The most commonly mentioned activity was swimming, followed by ice-skating and going to the park. These 123 activities can be understood as 'active' recreation and often involve children and friends. The intensity tends to be low because of the involvement of children, but they are described as fun and enjoyable. " I 'm going to go skating on Sunday for fun. That's physical activity, but it's not really very strenuous because I 'm only just learning, so I sort of wobble across the ice at two miles an hour!" (Morgan, interview #1) "Taking my kids to the swimming pool, when we go to the pool I 'm not actually swimming, per se. I mean, maybe a couple of strokes, but I 'm in there and doing stuff with them and whatever, or going to the park with them, so I guess in some sense [I get] a little bit [of exercise]." (Rachel, Discussion group) Initially I found it surprising that the recreation activities were usually organized around facilities as I expected the cost to be prohibitive. In fact it is outdoor activities such as cycling, in-line skating, skiing and hiking that were limited by financial demands associated with the cost of equipment and transportation. Recreation facilities in the community are very accessible due to the Leisure Access Card, a facility pass that is subsidized by the City of Vancouver for low-income families, as well as the large number of skating and swimming facilities within walking distance. Difficulty accessing recreation for these single mothers is related to planning, schedules, and only themselves to rely on (especially when young children are involved), rather than actual program fees or the location. "When you have kids it involves so much planning beforehand that a lot of times it just ends up falling through. When I do make the plans I find, I end up having to do, I have to make it by myself so I end up not doing it." (Christina, interview The women in this study were more likely to be involved in recreation i f it included another adult, especially i f it involved learning a new ski l l . It seems that there is less embarrassment and more encouragement to have fun when everyone is trying something new and 124 there is an integration of both the mind and the body. However, feeling self-conscious, even in a group situation can make it difficult to continue. "I go ice skating — or try to. Last year was my first time. I went again this year and I stayed up for about 10 minutes on my skates! . . . and then the skates were hurting my feet and I just felt stupid. There's my kids and I 'm holding on to a cone — I spent most of my time hanging on to the side boards or whatever. I think we did a couple of rounds around the thing, but then it is like, yeah I've had enough." (Rachel, Discussion group) Just as ability, or lack of it, can influence the enjoyment of a group activity, ability is crucial for active individual recreation. The women in this study who indicated that they participate in recreation for themselves were also more likely to refer to the skills they had learned when they were younger. Morgan had been taught to enjoy walking by her father who is a "big walker". Christina would often arrange things so that she could go swimming by herself which she enjoys because she loves the feel of it and because she is good at it, having been a lifeguard and competitive swimmer when she was younger. Knowledge is also important to participation in organized physical activity. Lack of knowledge about exercise in a gym setting with weight machines and aerobic equipment such as stationary bicycles and rowers was very intimidating for those research participants who had never really been in a gym before. A s one of the discussion group participant explained about using equipment when she is not sure what she is supposed to do: "They have so many new fandangled equipment things that I know nothing about and I try and get on and impress myself that I 'm actually doing something good for my body and someone walks by and flicks a switch or something — I 'm doing it completely wrong and I want to melt into the floor." (Brenda, Discussion group) It should not be surprising that the women in this study are not interested in including this type o f activity in their daily routine when physical activity in an a program setting requires so much knowledge. However, physical activity in daily life also requires a certain amount of 125 knowledge about the specific benefits of exercise and what kinds of things can be incorporated or modified to increase physical activity levels. For example, Rachel had never really considered the large benefit she gained by walking her kids to school and was therefore not aware o f what a significant impact it would have i f she moved to a location where her kids needed to be bussed or driven. In addition, Rachel's knowledge about physical activity included some common myths about the effects of exercise. " W e l l I don't want to work my muscles 'cause I 'm — I don ?t want all this to turn into muscle, and be this great big woman. I want to know some cardio stuff and to help [with] burning the fat off, and stuff, not building it into muscle." (Rachel, Discussion group) Even with adequate ability and knowledge however, participation in individual activities are often limited by the availability of childcare for the research participants. Because the swimming pools in the community have very limited or non-existent baby sitting, Christina uses the emergency childcare at Crabtree Corner as described earlier, or enlists the assistance of her boyfriend Richard. This limits her schedule to a few specific times, either first thing in the morning or later in the evening. A s a result the pool that fits her schedule the best and is still financially accessible is the Y W C A downtown, but this requires the additional expense of public transportation. A n d even i f all o f the planning and organizing comes together and it is possible for her to go swimming, Christina struggles with feelings of guilt for focusing on her own needs rather than her responsibilities as a mother. "Every once in a while, like once a month, where I actually get to go swimming by myself, I either get one of my friends in the building to look after him [Joshua], or when Richard comes over he ' l l baby-sit for me. Lately he has offered to baby-sit a lot more, so that's been quite helpful . . . I feel almost guilty leaving him [Joshua] with people... I think it was more guilt about taking time for myself. A n d it wasn't even a conscious thing, it was just that I would find myself not taking the time for myself." (Christina, interview #1) 126 Taking time "for me" is an important part of personal, rather than group, recreation for the single mothers in this study. However this personal recreation is based on the need for alone time, for relaxation and for the mental challenge that does not come with housework and childcare. A s a result, personal recreation for these women does not generally involve physical activity, even when getting together with friends. When asked i f friends are important for recreational activities Morgan responded by saying: "No , not physical ones. Mental ones, yes. But physical activity is a solitary exercise for me . . . i f I 'm with someone else I ' l l forget the physical activity . . . it 's also my own pace. I find it really hard to ignore someone else's pace." (Morgan, interview #1) Ultimately personal recreation is a time to take care of "myself 'and re-energize, not stretch limited emotional energy to capacity. "But now I don't have the discipline. I mean I try and get into doing it [exercise], but I jus t . . . I do have the discipline, but my discipline is focused on my child. So all o f my mental effort — as I say, discipline is a mental effort and I shy away from any unnecessary mental effort, even i f it 's something that might benefit me. Because I've just made so much mental effort already that I don't want to put . . . discipline myself in any other way. It's like hey, you deserve a little break now, you can go to bed and read, or whatever. So it cOmes back to that, that it's mental effort that I just don't have the energy for." (Morgan, interview #1) While most of the research participants expressed an interest in pursuing typically middle-class outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, skiing and cycling, the ones they identified as the most interesting and accessible for themselves were related to activities that emphasize the mind-body connection such as yoga and tai chi. In response to a question about what kinds of physical activities they would like to do but do not currently do, the women indicated that activities like yoga and tai chi would be accessible and likely help them maintain their well-being and improve their energy levels. "I think it [tai chi or yoga] would help me concentrate better, focus more on myself, — I mean I do think that it is probably true that i f your body is in a good 127 state your mind is in a good state too, so i f I did tai chi or something I have this image that it would help me focus and concentrate my energy better." (Morgan, interview #1) Walking Walking is the activity that bridges the gap between physical activity and exercise. It is a dominant part of household chores and transportation, but it is also used as purposeful exercise to support the health of the body. "I take the bus to take my son to daycare and then I walk home — I make myself walk home. A n d that's a conscious thing that I do because I think, you know O K , I've gotta get some exercise, but it's not physical activity it's exercise . . . I 'm going to walk home because it's exercise, I need to get some exercise, So walking to or from daycare or school to pick up or drop off my kids, that's about the only thing I do that I think is a conscious thing on my part to do anything that is remotely healthy to my body." (Rachel, Discussion group) Walking also provides relief from being indoors, as well as time to think, freedom, and enjoyment. Morgan describes the satisfaction she gets from walking to work off restlessness or just to enjoy the feeling: " W e l l that's why I like walking, 'cause I actually literally enjoy the physical sensation of working my legs and breathing, and I don't have to . . . it 's not like running which I would find oppressive because it's more tiring, I guess. Walking is a sort of measured activity that your whole body benefits from but you don't get exhausted by and it isn't like this huge pressure." (Morgan, interview #1) "Like for instance last night, I had supper and then I just felt really restless and I went out for half an hour walk, which was really good. I felt good, I walked off the restlessness and my body felt better." (Morgan, interview #2) Walking is also important for the sense of freedom it gives and the space for personal thought. A s Rachel comments about her daily errands and walking her boys to school and day care: "It gives me time to be by myself, and I can do a lot of thinking or organizing when I 'm walking home. I mean, I always put the kids first before, but now that they're in school and at daycare, it gives me more time that I 'm not worrying about them so much because I know he's, having fun at school, he's doing his 128 thing at daycare. So yeah, right now any time that I can spend by myself, like the walking to the grocery store, or the walking home from school, or whatever . . . it's still time for me to do my thinking or concentrate on m y s e l f (Rachel, interview However, walking can also be almost an act of desperation used to escape from feelings of being overwhelmed or trapped, and feelings of boredom. Christina spoke of the hours of walking she would do just before Joshua was born and in the six months after. The description of one of her days suggests that she walked almost 30 kilometers for no other reason than she felt like she needed to walk. Even at the time of the interviews when her son was just over a year old Christina spoke of the considerable amount of walking that she does with Joshua in the stroller. "I felt really good even though it was raining. Yeah, I felt really, really good cause of the fresh air and stuff — getting out. I ended up walking, I think it's approximately, I don't know, I think it's 30, 40 blocks." (Christina, interview #2) Although walking is usually portrayed as positive, there appears to be an inherent contradiction in the meaning of this activity for the women in this study. The positive aspects of walking, including enjoyment and freedom were often contrasted with being stuck indoors or with the necessity of performing errands such as grocery shopping. A l l of the women mention the difficulty of relying on walking for transportation, especially with respect to the time required and the physical effort of pushing a stroller when children are involved. "I don't let h im go in the stroller. Since he was four, I haven't let h im do that because I found the stroller to be actually more of an inconvenience. Pushing the . stroller was really uncomfortable, I found, for me, and I don't know i f that has something to do with my own physical make up but it was hard work pushing it over bumps and stuff. I just used to get really tired of doing that and he's very heavy, so I said 'no, you can, you've got good strong legs, you can use them'." (Morgan, interview #1) The weather also becomes much more important than it would be i f a car was available. . "When the weather gets better I do a lot more walking just for the sake of walking. It's just with the winter time, and the rain and that, it's been really hard because you get house-bound." (Christina, interview #1) 129 Not only is walking more difficult with children, the nature of the activity is quite different than when the women walk alone. It is much slower and focuses almost entirely on the children and moving them along. "But I find that having a small child, you can't walk really. W e l l , you can, but it's just dragging them along — like mine is one that you have to drag, unless he's in a good mood and he's being a super-hero and running ahead, but that doesn't usually last for more than about 4 or 5 blocks." (Morgan, interview #1) While walking is often identified by the research participants as the only real "exercise" they get each day, they also recognize that the intensity of the walking can vary considerably and they all feel that they should be walking more briskly in order to benefit their bodies. I was interested to notice during the day I spent with Christina that although she is the one who does the most walking, her walking is at a slow to moderate pace, with or without the stroller. Christina is not a small person — she is around 5'6" and maybe 170 pounds. Although she is overweight, she appears physically confident, possibly because she was active as a lifeguard and competitive swimmer in her younger years. Now at 28 with a baby just over a year old, she moves deliberately and with movements that seem designed to conserve energy. She is calm and gentle with Joshua, but seems to tire easily ... when walking quickly her breathing increases significantly and when being playful with Joshua she seems a bit self-conscious as they roll on the grass and he climbs over her ... getting up and down from the floor is a bit awkwardfor Christina as well because of her size which appears to limit her flexibility. (Participant Observation Field Notes) Clearly, the distinction between physical activity and exercise for the women in this study is based not so much on the type of activity but on the meaning and context of the activity. Walking is considered to be physical activity when it is performed as a daily chore like cleaning up around the house or walking children to school. It becomes exercise when it is done "purposefully" at a slightly higher intensity or as an activity to relieve stress and take care of personal health and well-being. The difficulty is that while the women in this study recognize 130 that physical activity has the potential to enhance energy, spiritual connection and general wel l -being, they perceive that these benefits do not accrue i f the context is not supportive. In light of the low social value held by the job of being a mother, and the physical and emotional effort required in the struggle of being a low-income single mother, it is not a stretch to imagine that the context of physical activity in daily life is not supportive of personal health and well-being. When asked why the conversation kept turning to physical activity as exercise rather than physical activity in daily life Rachel summed it up this way; "I think it's almost like it's — physical activity is meaningless. You ' re not feeling like you've accomplished [anything]. Like both Morgan and Brenda were saying, you don't feel like in your body you have accomplished anything. Morgan's feeling tired and worn out at the end of the day — she doesn't feel good and the same with Brenda too, and I have to say that too. It's not meaningful, you don't feel like you've done good for your body. You're not thinking in that way." (Rachel, Discussion group) Change and Physical Activity A l l of the women who participated in this research project identify this as a time of change in their lives both personally and structurally. Each woman spoke in some way about how things have changed for them since they had their children and moved into Cedar Court, how they cope with their current situation of being a low-income single mother, and the hopes and dreams they have for their future. Where they have been and where they are now, emotionally and physically, is important for understanding the place of physical activity in their lives at this time as well as in the future. This section w i l l examine how these women arrived at this place and how they understand change in their lives. 131 Life stage Aging is a process that necessarily brings change, although the experience of aging varies from person to person. Interestingly it is only Morgan, perhaps because she is the only research participant over 30, who spoke of aging specifically as an important factor influencing her current level of physical activity and her desire to be more active. " W e l l , partly because as you get older your body is less toned anyway, and I guess I 'm kind of conscious of the aging process in myself, partly. I still think of myself as being 19, but I know I 'm not . . . and, it's out there in the media too . . . the : spotlight is really turning on people and how long they live . . . and I notice from my skin, it 's getting wrinklier and it doesn't have that youthful kind of elasticity and bloom to it. So it's the same for my muscles, I know that. I mean, my muscles desperately need toning. I should be in the gym right now!" (Morgan, interview #1) For Morgan it initially appears that aging is closely related to a decline in ability or an increase in risk factors for disease which w i l l impact longevity, rather than the influence of aging on appearance. O n closer examination, however, there is a clear tension between external appearance and internal health and well-being apparent in her comments about aging. She is on the one hand afraid of what the aging process w i l l do to her appearance: " Y o u know, I 'm a bit afraid of aging, I don't want to be a big flabby old person. I mean, I probably won't be big, I ' l l probably be a thin, skinny, flabby old person (laugh), but you know what I mean . . . I 'm not looking forward to that so, you know, I want to keep it as good as it can be for as long as that's possible." (Morgan, interview #2) A n d on the other hand she feels that appearance is ultimately superficial: " W e l l . . . yeah, it's a lot to do with getting older, becoming more mature, having had a child, going through some experiences that made me see there's more to life than how you look." (Morgan, interview #2) Although aging did not come up as an issue for the other two women in the study, life stage appeared to be a relevant concept for all of the research participants in understanding how 132 the practice and meaning of physical activity has changed throughout their lives. Childhood was regarded as an active time, although each woman reported a different experience of it. For Christina involvement in activities and lessons such as Brownies, baseball, skating and competitive swimming was very important for her happiness as a child and young adult. The other kids that she did these activities with became her peer group, especially as she got older and they started to work together as lifeguards and swimming instructors. While Christina acknowledges that she really enjoyed the activities and being with her friends, one of the largest motivations was the desire to escape her home life that included a negative relationship with her step-father. "I really liked a lot of them [the activities]. I think too, because I didn't like being at home, that I was involved in Gi r l Guides and Brownies — I was involved in everything. A n d then F d go to the library a lot and then I also started working out at the gym. I enjoyed the activities but also it got me away from my house. It was almost too much, I think in some ways, because it was just so much. Like , it took up all of my time, 'cause I couldn't really feel comfortable at home. I would just go home to eat and sleep and I 'd spend all my other time either at school or doing , the other activities." (Christina, interview #2) For Christina support from her parents to be physically active meant providing access to lessons and other activities, but not actually being involved themselves. In fact Christina does not recall her mother ever coming to watch her swim competitively, although she swam for five years. A s a role model Christine's mother was a smoker who did not exercise at all . "Actually my mom was really bad. I used to beg my mom to go work out with me .. . when I was younger I would be just begging her 'please, you ' l l love it ' . A n d then she never, never would do anything, other than at home with the kids. She would never do anything, like go [out] . . . and then after I left home, a couple years after I was gone I guess, she started going to aerobics and working out at the gym, and now she goes all the time." (Christina, interview #2) Christina feels that because she developed the skills and enjoyed being active as a child and young adult it has helped her become a well-rounded person and helped her to return to 133 activity as an adult and young mother. However, organized activities and lessons outside of school were not a part of childhood for both Morgan and Rachel. Physical activity was not a priority for either of their mothers, although Morgan recalls her father stressing the importance of walking. Rachel's mother worked outside the home and was so exhausted when she got home that she did not have the energy to deal with the children, let alone exercise herself. Morgan remembers her mother as not being the least interested in physical activity. Organized activities for both Morgan and Rachel were part o f school and described as generally negative experiences. Morgan attended a boarding school where all the girls were expected to participate in sport and where she became afraid of competing against the other girls because she was bullied. "I didn't like sport in school. I was a goalie in lacrosse ... I didn't like competing against the other girls . . . I just was afraid of going up against other people because I was afraid of them. I was bullied really a lot when I was quite little, when I was about 6 and then onwards, because my dad was a vicar." (Morgan, interview #2) The activities that she did enjoy when she was young included activities that were individual like swimming, or things she did at home like riding her bicycle or "beating up" her younger sister. However, a large part of the discomfort of being involved in sport for Morgan carried over to individual activities and activities performed as an adult. This discomfort stems from physical awkwardness and feelings of physical and emotional vulnerability. "I really liked swimming again because it was an individual sport. There was no physical contact and I was good at i t . . . I didn't like most sports. Also because, and I still have this feeling, because you are more vulnerable when you change into sport clothing because you're more exposed. There's more of you to laugh at . . . it was a lot to do with bullying for me. I had knobbly knees and skinny legs and . . . and I wore glasses, which was a distinct draw back with any game, with fast flying balls, and stuff like that.. ." (Morgan, interview #2) Rachel also disliked sport in school, starting from the time she was about 12 years old and began to experience the physical changes o f puberty. 134 "I think that's also part of when I started to feel kind of really bad about myself and stuff. 'Cause when I was younger I could eat'n eat'n eat'n eat'n eat and never ever gain an ounce. I mean I was so thin people worried about me . . . and then once I got to puberty age, that totally started to change. I had to be really, really careful about what I was eating and that sort of thing, because I just put on weight like crazy. So it was kind of like a yo-yo thing once I got into the teenage years." (Rachel, interview #2) Her physical confidence also decreased as she became more self-conscious and started hanging out with an older group of friends that smoked, drank and partied. "I kind of remember gym class being, once I got into like junior high, high school kind of thing, we 'd have to run around the track. But I mean you did that once every 2 months or something. Y o u know, then you had to do the stupid, I hated it, the Participaction thing or whatever ... I started smoking, so Imean I wasn't able to run as far as I used to . . . I was an awesome runner, I was so good, [but] I couldn't run as far as I used to." (Rachel, interview #2) However, just as Christina enjoyed life guarding with her friends, Rachel remembers making a new friend when she was about 14 and going with her to sea cadets. "So again it was like that friend change thing where I got right into that and did that, and I mean, I look back and that was like the best time of my life. It was cool, I really liked it, but very physically active . . . 'cause I was having fun! I was still smokin' and stuff like that but they made it so social . . . it was just so social that you didn't even notice ... that they were standing on the sidelines yell in ' and screamin' at you to run here and run there and move faster and do this and do that. Y o u were having a good time so I never even though of it as doing anything physical. I was just having a good time." (Rachel, interview #2) One life stage experience that all three of the research participants share to a greater or lesser extent is a difficult transition from school to the world of work and further education. While Christina did finish high school, she ended up at college out of province more as a result of needing to get away from home than as a conscious plan. She completed most of a forestry diploma before returning to B C to be with her boyfriend, which ended up not working out. She ended up with huge student loans and a number of low-paying manual labour jobs necessary just 135 to make ends meet. Physical activity was an important part of college for Christina because it included a "Woodsman's Team" where they did timber sports. "I really did become a part of it 'cause I ended up becoming a captain of our women's team .. . that was a lot of physical activity because you're chopping and sawing and running and carrying big huge weights on your back and a bunch of things like that.. . I really loved it, actually. I wish I could do something here like that" (Christina, interview #2) However when Christina left college and returned to B C her life became very inactive, similar to the experience of Morgan and Rachel when they left high school before graduating. Partying was important to both Morgan and Rachel at this time, which involved drinking, smoking and socializing, but not a lot of exercise. "I smoked a lot, I drank a lot, I debauched'an awful lot and you know, a lot of my muscle tone went out the window .. . by that time [I was] not into doing anything in which could possibly be construed as not being cool." (Morgan, interview #2) This pattern stayed with Rachel until she got pregnant with her first son at the age of 19. After . she became a mother her activity actually increased slightly. "When I got pregnant, or when I had him, my physical activity certainly wasn't at an all time high, but it was better than it had been before I had him in the sense that I was out taking him for walks and going to the park and that sort of thing. So it started to pick up a little bit more, but I was kind of by myself. Depression kind of sets in, you know, and then my eating just totally went downhill ." (Rachel, interview #2) Physical activity for Morgan changed when she started working at active jobs such as stage management, photographer assistant and mushroom picker. "I did more activity in those 10 years than I ever did before that." (Morgan, , interview #2) It was finally pregnancy and motherhood which increased "physical activity" in daily life for each of the three women in this study while simultaneously decreasing any "exercise" they may have been getting. Suddenly they were required to perform household and childcare chores 136 every day while not having the time or energy to do some of the things they used to do like work out or go swimming. "I used to do a lot of physical exercise and [now] I do none. A n d since I had a child I ceased to do physical exercise 'cause having a child involves so much physical exercise, [like] the things that Brenda just mentioned which she thinks of as work and not as enjoyable physical activity. But, they keep me fit to a certain extent, it 's just that the difference is you can't get into it. Y o u can't concentrate on the physical activity 'cause it's other stuff you're trying to do." (Morgan, Discussion group) Attitudes About Change A s the children get older, there is a greater opportunity for the mothers to choose their activities. A l l three of the women who participated in this study indicated that part of why they agreed to be involved was because they are beginning to feel that they can choose to increase the amount of physical activity they do in their daily lives. Both Rachel and Morgan attribute this change to the fact that their children are older and are in a stable daycare situation. "Whereas in my particular case, like I said, my kids are getting older and they're at daycare and in school and I have the time now, and I am in a space where I can start to think about that kind of thing." (Rachel, interview #2) "I used to get a lot of exercise just in being a mother because Arthur was little and needed a lot of lifting. N o w it's kind of panning out so that he's with his dad much more, or day care, and I actually have the room to think about myself and my body and moving it more." (Morgan, interview #2) Like Morgan and Rachel, Christina is looking to make changes in her physical activity but is restricted because of the young age of her son and lack of child care. However as was discussed earlier, Christina recognizes that she needs time for herself and is making plans to get that time and take care of her own health and well-being. Although the women in this study have the experience of motherhood in common, each woman is at a slightly different place in her life. A s the oldest, Morgan has a diversity of work 1 3 7 experience accumulated during the 10 years between school and motherhood. Rachel is younger than Morgan with very limited work experience but considerable experience as a mother raising two children. Christina is fairly new to motherhood and although she is the same age as Rachel, she has achieved more formal education than Rachel or Morgan. What is surprising is that in spite of these differences with respect to family, career and education, these three women see change in life as both a function of the situation, such as being a single mother, but perhaps more importantly as the result of being a human agent, of making change happen within yourself and within your life. " A lot of things are just changing in my life. A n d they're things that I've been . . . making them happen, and I feel really good. I think once you start doing things and i f you keep up with them then it's much easier to make things happen . . . but . then it [change] also motivated me too." (Christina, interview #2) Making change happen appears to be a function of habit on the one hand and a certain level of consciousness on the other. A s Rachel mentions when talking about this research study, she wanted to feel happier and healthier and saw an opportunity for knowledge and support to make a change in her physical activity and achieve these aims. "I was starting to become more aware of wanting to be healthier and do things that were good to me. So when I heard [you talk about physical activity] . . . that interests me because I wanted to know more about physical activity . . . just because I wanted to . . . I was interested in moving forward myself in the physical aspect of my life." (Rachel, interview #2) However, it seems that change in the area of physical activity is closely related to other areas of change such as planning and implementing family and community activities, improving eating habits, thinking more positively, or looking for employment. A l l o f these things involve some sort of personal or structural change and past feelings of success or failure can greatly influence whether future change w i l l be achieved. 138 "Yeah, I 'm petrified, I am! . . . I worry sometimes that I 'm going at it too fast. Like I 'm trying to do too much too soon, but... I don't know, then I kinda think that no, i f I don't sorta just jump right into it you know, I 'm really good at making excuses . . . i f I don't just jump into it and do it I 'm going to be able to talk myself out of it again." (Rachel, interview #2) A n d although positive or successful change can enhance personal confidence or ability to change, significant change takes a great deal of effort, energy and a certain amount of time. If those resources have been used up it is understandable that further change w i l l be less of a priority. "Since I left my husband a year ago in October . . . it 's been a process of reconstruction of my life. And , it 's been huge, I mean the amount of emotion stuff I've gone through in the last year and whatever, has been really gigantic . . . i f I was a person who used physical activity to give myself more energy and I was in the habit of doing that I would probably have used it. But because I was totally out of the habit of doing i t . . . plus as I said, i f I 'm feeling like stuff is a struggle . . . the effort you have to make to do a physical activity is too [much]." (Morgan, . interview #2) Motherhood Motherhood seems to be the. key characteristic that defines what kind of change can be imagined by the women in this study with respect to physical activity as well as their work lives and personal relationships. It is their most important responsibility and what appears to be the only constant in their lives. But even as parenting is constant, children are always changing and their demands are always changing as they age. The children always structure the day, even when older, because they either require personal care such as feeding or changing, or transportation to secondary care such as baby-sitting or school. Even i f the women in this study want to make a change in the day it must be planned around the needs of the children. "If I felt like doing something for myself, like going swimming or going for a bike ride I could just do it whenever I felt like, but . . . but now I have to actually make time and have someone to take care of him, of Joshua, and I can't just spur of the moment i f I feel like doing something, do it. It's much, much different." (Christina, interview #2) 139 When the child is very young, daily activity for the mothers in this study consisted of household chores as described earlier, and activity that revolved around the baby such as talking, lifting, playing, chasing and other things to stimulate and protect the child. A s the child spent more time in the care of other adults the activity became more related to recreation, transportation and possibly employment. However, employment is also structured by the needs of the child. For example, Morgan would like to travel and possibly work as a travel writer, but she does not see that as realistic while she continues to be the primary caregiver to Arthur. Christina could work as a forest technician but this would take her away from home and make it very difficult for her to care for Joshua. "It's the kind of field you do a lot of moving around, a lot of contract work. A s a technician it's mainly, I mean, there are other jobs but it would require moving ' and I just don't feel there's the stability that is needed" (Christina, interview #1) Not only is the structure of the day built around the needs of the child, but the women who participated in this research seemed to feel the pressure physically and emotionally. Both Morgan and Christina complained of back and shoulder pain related to pushing, pulling or lifting their children. Christina also experienced additional physical challenges within the last year as a result of a Cesarean incision which got infected and the general fatigue of breast-feeding. These structural and physical changes are very significant in the emotional lives of these single mothers. Besides strong feelings of love and responsibility towards their children, these women also describe feelings of being overwhelmed, depression, guilt, and denial of themselves outside of their role as a mother. This denial of themselves and their bodies is often articulated as not taking time to do things for themselves such as relaxing, exercising and even eating. A s both 140 Christina and Rachel describe, they would often forget to eat, especially when their children were young. "I even notice that with just eating, I 've been trying to make a more conscious effort for myself lately. But before I didn't even realize that I was doing it. I would feed Joshua and I would be all worried about his needs and get them all met, and I would realize by afternoon, I hadn't eaten anything . . . and that was happening everyday. A n d even though it was happening every day you would think that I would [plan to eat] but I wouldn ' t . . . 'cause you're so caught up in his needs and not realizing that I 'm important too." (Christina, interview #1) "But, then I had the kids and I was so overwhelmed with parenting and doing everything that you had to do, that in the beginning I was starving and bitchy and having a heck of a time. But I just found that a lot of days it [eating] wasn't forethought in my mind. I was busy doing other things and didn't put aside the time to eat." (Rachel, Discussion group) A s the children get older and more independent the women report that they have more time for themselves, but that they are still heavily influenced by the behaviour of their children. During my second interview with Morgan she apologized i f she had seemed a bit negative about how her son impacted her life. It seems that Arthur's behaviour had not been very good lately because he had been dealing with his father's re-entry into his life and Morgan had been having problems getting Arthur to cooperate with her plans. Rachel also commented on how it has only been in the last few months that her youngest son has calmed down enough to be manageable. "He came out angry . . . he cried all the time, right from birth. N o napping, he'd sleep through the night but no napping during the day and he cried from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed . . . then at that point I got into a really bad rut because he's just now starting to come out of it — where I 'm now being able, we're able to manage now." (Rachel, interview #1) Rachel later recounted a story of being asked to get off two different busses on the same day because her youngest child wouldn't stop crying. "I got stuck where I felt like I couldn't go anywhere or do anything because all he did was cry. I got kicked off of 2 busses once because he was crying and it was horrible! A l l in the same day! I went and got on this bus and he was crying so bad, it was rush hour and people were complaining, and the bus driver asked i f I could 141 get off until he calmed down. I 'm almost crying myself, so I get off the bus and then I figure we ' l l wait for the next one. We get on the next one and it was the same thing, he made me leave the bus . . . so after that I couldn't do anything or go anywhere." (Rachel, interview #1) This type of experience, although not always this dramatic, was common among the women in this study and resulted in them turning inward and focusing on the home and their children rather than themselves. " I 'm just getting out of that... the first year I almost found like I lived in like a little cocoon ... and now I 'm feeling like I 'm wanting to do a lot more for m y s e l f (Christina, interview #1) Understanding physical activity in daily life must be based on the recognition that physical activity is something that is part of life in variable amounts and intensities depending on life stage and personal experience. Because it is dependent on both the structure of daily life and individual decisions it is in a constant state of change. The uncertainly which accompanies change creates an added layer of stress for these low-income single mothers who must rely on themselves to take care of their families and constantly be planning so that they do not run out of money by the end of the month. In this context it does not seem surprising that increasing physical activity has not been a priority in the past. What is perhaps more surprising is that it is a priority for future change. Resources for Physical Activity in Daily Life The practice of physical activity in daily life is clearly based on necessity for these single mothers. There is some discretionary activity that takes the form of recreation, usually with the children, but generally the day-to-day physical activity of these women is linked to their responsibilities as mothers. In order to meet these responsibilities the women in this study report 142 using a variety of resources available to them in the community, within their families and social networks, and within themselves. While these resources are similar to the ones recognized as important for organized physical activity, they are understood differently and given a different priority by the research participants in this study. For example, the women recognize that their, limited income is an important factor that restricts their access to many traditional recreation opportunities, but they identify the effort and energy that is required to take advantage of the accessible programs as being one of the most significant barriers. This section explores the physical, emotional, and knowledge-based resources the women who participated in this study have (or do not have) to support physical activity in their daily lives. Social Support Perhaps because of the impact being the sole parent has on their daily life, the research participants identify social support (or lack of it) as an important factor that influences the amount and type of physical activity they are required and/or choose to do. Isolation is one of the most important shared social experiences of these single mothers, an experience that is often combined with feelings of being stuck, trapped, and feeling guilty about asking for help: from friends and family. "When I had my kids I didn't know anybody else that had kids. I was kind of by myself and feeling really overwhelmed with all the responsibility. I mean I knew there was responsibility, but all the responsibility that went with it and how everything is focused on the child. So, you know, with one at the time I 'm sure I found it really, really hard, but looking back on it now it wasn't too bad." (Rachel, interview #1) The fathers of the children in this study play a variable role, depending on the relationship with the mother. Neither of the fathers of Rachel's two boys are involved in their lives or pay any kind of child support and Rachel seems quite content with that. The father of Christina's son 143 is also not involved and in fact denies that Joshua is his son. Christina would like Joshua to know his father one day and feels that his father and the grandparents are missing out on a very special relationship. However, she has resigned herself to his absence and lack of support, knowing that it is beyond her control. The situation with Morgan is a bit different because she and the father of her son got married when they found out they were pregnant. Although the marriage did not work out, Morgan continues to try and involve her ex-husband for the sake of Arthur. While she does receive some support the other single mothers do not, it has its own difficulties, especially when her ex-husband promises to call Arthur and then forgets. "Right now he's being a great dad, but for instance in December he promised me he was going to be paying my maintenance every month and I haven't had that maintenance for February, because some guy's got it and he hasn't put it in the bank . . . and it's just blah-blah-blah. A n d I don't really know what the reason is, but I haven't got it is the end result for me." (Morgan, interview #2) In some respects, the boyfriends of both Christina and Rachel have been able to f i l l the space where the absent fathers would have been. They provide love and support to both the women and their children, as well as baby-sitting, transportation and running errands. "He [Richard] comes over a lot now . . . the times that I want I've just been saying 'Look, can you come over?' and he actually is really [supportive]. I 'm lucky, 'cause he's like 'Sure, no problem'. Whatever I want he accommodates me.... when he comes over on the weekends we decided that, [actually] I just asked him and he said yes so I was really happy. . . . that's my time to sleep in 'cause I've never had that since I had Joshua. (Christina, interview #2) In Rachel's case not only is her boyfriend important to the children, but they have become a part of his family as well . "Rob's family lives out in [a Vancouver suburb]. M y boys are very, very, very close, like they've all kind of adopted each other. I think it's important for the boys to be closer to that and because I feel like I've done the single mom thing." (Rachel, interview #2) 144 While these relationships help to alleviate some of the pressure on these single mothers, they must still ultimately rely on themselves. One of the women reports that it is almost more difficult to cope with a broken promise of help than it is to rely on herself from the start. However when the support is there it makes a big difference in the ability to plan and organize daily life, Christina specifically relies on her boyfriend to get time for her own exercise like going for a swim. She and her boyfriend are also planning on doing some recreation activities together but things are complicated by his inexperience. "Our interests are so different... I've been [saying] ' O K , we have to pick something that we can do together' . . . I used to be a lifeguard and swim instructor so I know how to swim and he doesn't know how to swim, so we decided that this year I would help teach him how to swim so that we could do things all together, Joshua, myself and Richard. A n d then he doesn't know how to skate and I used to take skating . . . so I 'm going to at least help try and maybe teach him so that there's things that we can do together" (Christina, interview #1) Other friends are also important sources of support. For the women in this study, the friends they have made in the housing project have been crucial for baby-sitting as well as sources df information and necessary household items like furniture and strollers. They chat in the halls, know each other's kids and keep an eye on strangers in the building. One of the women even uses an annual bus pass which she borrows from a friend who does not use very much now that she has a car. But as was noted earlier, being so close to your neighbour can mean that everyone is in everyone else's business. The kind of support that the women in this study want and need from their friends and neighbours is also variable and depends on the individual. For example, Morgan has found the time since she moved in to Cedar Court important for giving her some space and time to be on her own. " W e l l , ironically, I think I do less physical activity because I live here, because it's the first time I've actually had an apartment which is totally mine. Like before, I was always l iving with other people, and I saw a lot more people, so I would be off doing stuff with them. But right now I 'm just sort o f . . . I 'm here 1 4 5 drinking my tea, doing my school work and stuff, or I 'm in school, or I 'm doing groceries . . . this is quite solitary period for me, which is a good thing because I think I really need that and I need to do it. But it hasn't encouraged physical activity. I mean, even the proximity of say, other mothers who could watch Arthur while I 'm [busy]... that doesn't really have any effect on me. I mean, he's at day care and I still am not going out and doing physical activity." (Morgan, interview #2) Wi th respect to physical activity, friends appear to be most important when trying something new like skating, or going to an unfamiliar and intimidating place like a workout gym. For example, Rachel tried to use the social support from friends to counteract the social pressure for a beautiful body. "I tried going down to the Y and I got all gung-ho with Susan and Shawna. I went three times and I swear, I was never going again. I was the only overweight person there, and I didn't know what I was doing . . . I felt very uncomfortable 'cause I couldn't find anybody that would help me with those things [the equipment], and because I didn't see one other overweight person there, and because I was wearing big old droopy-drawered sweat pants and an old T-shirt and not some up your butt tight aerobics outfit in the fashion colours and whatever." (Rachel, Discussion group) Very rarely do the women in this study plan to get together with friends on a regular basis to do some kind of exercise or recreational activity. While going with friends got Rachel into the gym, it did not give her enough support to feel that she could go back. When asked i f she does activities with friends, Morgan describes her friends as being more important for mental activity to promote relaxation and emotional support, than for exercise companionship. The other important relationship in the lives of the research participants is the relationship with their families. While their fathers have impacted their lives in various ways, it is their mothers who have been most important as sources of support. In all three cases, the mothers of the research participants provided some kind of care and support to their daughters and grandchildren, especially immediately following the birth. Rachel reports that the birth of 146 her son improved her relationship with her mother and Rachel actually moved out of the province with her mother and step-father to help run a family restaurant. Morgan also left the province following the birth of her son to spend some time with her family in England. Having her mother to take care of Arthur allowed her to share household responsibilities and gave her time to go to the gym to exercise. " M y mom was there to take care of Arthur . . . we were all sharing the meals, the laundry was right there, and I actually had the energy, the mental energy, to go to the gym and fight that battle." (Morgan, interview #1) Even rthough Christina was in the same city as her family she spent a few months leading up to the birth of her son in a hospice for young single mothers. It wasn't until the baby was born that she stayed with her mother for a while before moving in to Cedar Court. While her mother was supportive and even quit smoking when Christina insisted that she could not smoke around the baby, things were tense in the family. In fact, while Christina recognizes that family can be an important source of support especially in a time of crises, family can also be negative and unhealthy and require some distance. However, redefining her relationship with her family required a great deal of emotional energy and risk by Christina. So far the result has been positive, but i f she had not had adequate support from her boyfriend and a sense of stability through Cedar Court redefining her relationship with her family might not have been possible or as positive as it has been. , In the area of social relationships as for the rest of their lives, the women in this study are going through a time of change. Morgan is coping with the finalization of her divorce, while Rachel is contemplating a move to be closer to her boyfriend and his family. Christina has redefined her relationship with her family and is wondering about how her relationship with her boyfriend should progress. A s a resource for their lives, the social relationships these women . 1 4 7 rely on are a crucial but variable factor that can support their ability to cope, or make it difficult for them to take control or make changes in other parts of their lives. Energy and Effort Ultimately, the low-income single mothers in this study see that they must rely on themselves to take care of their children and their own well-being. A s a result energy and effort come up time and again in the discussion of daily life. Because they must rely on themselves these women recognize that it is crucial they have enough energy to enable them to take care of their children and "keep it together" even when faced with a crisis. Morgan explained it this way when asked why she believed some o f the other women in Cedar Court were not interested in participating in this project: "They're shy, they're already dealing with a lot of problems, they don't want to complicate their lives further. I mean a lot of people, single mothers, get into a really rigid frame of mind because they're struggling against so much that they just keep it real tight. Y o u know, they don't allow too many other new things in. They, just don't want to give out any more of their time because their time is already taken up so much with these demanding little people who want everything from them.".(Morgan, interview #2) This effort of their lives requires physical energy, especially when the children are young and require a great deal of physical care, but especially mental and emotional energy. This . energy is drained by constant interaction with the child or children, no personal or alone time, the household work of cooking, cleaning and errands, and the burden of being the sole person responsible for the family. Managing stress becomes an important part of daily life. " I 'm stressing out... even just a mental kind of a break, [it] not even necessarily has to be a physical break 'cause I 'm physically tired . . . I 'm mentally tired too, and I just kind of need that time to sort of, you know, sort through all the mumbo jumbo stuff in my head. So it doesn't always have to be a physical thing." (Rachel, interview #2) 148 While the women in this study often express coping with stress and tiredness as necessitating a choice between physical activity to strengthen the body or a mental break to relieve the mind, each one of them recognizes that increasing her physical activity has the potential to improve her state of mind and increase her energy level. "If I do more and I do something that I enjoy, like i f I actually go for a swim or i f I go for a walk or do things that involve physical activity . . . I find that I actually have more energy . . . but i f I don't do extra things outside the house and try and , . get some time for myself, I find that I really feel like I have very low energy." (Christina, interview #1) The difficulty becomes translating knowledge into action especially when experience has shown that you must expend energy to gain energy. "I find at the end of the day I 'm just too tired. I 'm not motivated to sit up and start stretching. A n d even though part of my mind goes 'Morgan, you're going to feel way better i f you do that."' (Morgan, interview #1) I would argue that the women in this study also put themselves at an energy disadvantage as a result of poor nutrition and eating habits. Disordered eating is an issue for all three of these low-income women to a greater or lesser degree and w i l l be discussed later in relation to body image. However, their eating patterns are also related to their responsibilities as single mothers. They often become so wrapped up in their children that they feel like they have eaten when they have fed their child, or they forget to eat. " W e l l now looking back at it and talking about it, there's a lot of things I [should do], like eating, that's the big thing that I really need to watch . . . [it's] no wonder I feel so tired in the afternoon when I haven't eaten anything. I tend to eat dinner all the time, but it seems to be quite late, and lunch and breakfast are harder for me too. So by the time I've had dinner I 'm wiped right out." (Christina, interview #2) 149 But it is not simply a matter of being too tired. Part of the knowledge each of these women holds is that of how difficult physical activity can be, based on past experience and the context of daily life right now. "It's in my mind, that I want to tone up my muscles, but another part of me just goes 'I have enough struggling to do 'and I know what it's going to be like. Because I know even when it was much easier in my life it was hard to go for a workout." (Morgan, interview #1) Energy and effort describe the tension in this mind-body connection which is an important experience of daily life for these women. The body is necessary in order to accomplish the things that must be done in the day. However the body requires that the mind be able to plan and provide the motivation to ensure action. Likewise, the mind is necessary to ensure that daily responsibilities are met but depends on the ability and comfort of the body to perform the tasks. Too much effort required from the body or the mind makes it impossible for either to perform adequately. Both Morgan and Christina recognize the need for mind-body balance and speak of the emotional and spiritual in connection with the physical. Both have used affirmations to enhance well-being in their daily lives, and both articulate the need for physical activity which balances the mind and the body. Another strategy that these women report when talking about coping with the stress in their daily lives is simplification through planning and the development of routines and habits in order to keep in control. Routines seem to be especially important for coping with the challenges of children and it becomes stressful and requires careful planning i f the routine is forced to change. However, simplification does not necessarily mean balance. A s Rachel describes below, her attempt to simplify her household chores as her time becomes limited sounds less like balance and more like extra work for her. 150 "I know I 'm going to be starting school. I've been thinking a lot more — I've gone out and bought myself all these new gadgets for the kitchen. So that it's going to help me out. I got a breadmaker for Christmas and I also have a crockpot and a ricecooker and all of that kind of stuff because I 'm trying to think ahead. If I can prepare a lot of my meals — you know, pick a few hours like say on Sunday where I can make a whole bunch of meals and freeze them, then I 'm not going to have to spend all kinds of time on it when I come home from school and after picking the kids up. So it w i l l free me up a bit more. So I guess, trying to look at it in that sense, like planning ahead or whatever." (Rachel, interview #1) Time is obviously an important part of planning in order to ensure that there is enough energy to get the essential activities done. However, personal needs require additional time and planning and as a result get sacrificed when the essential activities take longer than planned. A n d not only does planning require time and energy, it requires ski l l and practice that are difficult to achieve i f past experiences with planning have failed. Even i f they are motivated to be more physically active, the women in this study report past experiences where they have tried to be more active and failed. A s a low-income single mother, physical activity is not something which spontaneously happens; it must be planned and then carried out, which gives great opportunity for failure. A n d when things do not happen as planned it can be very hard on self-esteem and confidence and thereby decrease the emotional energy available for planning. In this context it is clear why the women in this study are so proud of things they have planned and made to happen. "That was our first one [community kitchen] that actually happened and that was because I planned it and I told them this is when it's going to happen, this is what we're making and i f you're interested let me know .. . I think lately since I've been planning certain things in my life to get things happening, I think it's been making my self-esteem kind of rise because I know that in planning them myself I 'm making sure they happen — so that's been kind of nice." (Christina, interview #1) • 151 But just as a history of positive results and effective planning habits can help make sure things get done, bad habits can unconsciously sabotage good intentions. The difficult thing with habit is that it is largely unconscious. "Yeah, I have to say that since we had that discussion before [discussion group about physical activity], I've been sort of really conscious of my walking . . . and I do feel good. Like in the mornings, I have to walk up [up the road] to take my little guy to day care. A n d I walk home and I do, I feel really good — hey! you know, I walked that really brisk today. A n d yeah, i t makes me feel good . . . 'cause I don't even remember before being really conscious of, you know, trying to do any kind of good exercise or whatever 'cause I was so exhausted from the kids all the time that every chance I could I sat down." (Rachel, interview #1) . It makes sense that when Rachel is tired she sits down. However, her fatigue stems not only from the physical effort of walking the kids to and from school for two hours each day, but also from the mental and emotional struggle of coping as a low-income single mother, a lack of proper nutrition, and her smoking habit. The research suggests that physical rest may not be the most effective method of coping with mental and emotional fatigue. It is more likely that Rachel's sedentary lifestyle, with the exception of walking for transportation, contributes to her fatigue. A s a resource then, energy is not merely a source of physical energy to enable 'work' , but it is also mental and emotional, enabling planning, organization and motivation. The efficient use of available energy depends on knowledge, ski l l , and past experience, as well as the physical capacity of the body. The Lived Body In the opening of this chapter I took time to describe each of the women in this study — where they have been, where they are now, and what they see for themselves in the future. Simply from the descriptions it is clear that although they share the experience of being low-152 income single mothers, they do so from the location of their own bodies. The body is an important site for understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity because it is where physical activity originates and the body itself carries a great deal of meaning. There is no confusion among the women who participated in this project about what an appropriate body image is for women in our society and what it means not to have it. "Our [society's] view on especially women's bodies are you have to be super, super thin . . . I think that people judge a lot just by weight." (Christina, interview #1) The pressure to have an 'appropriate' body is often experienced directly by the women as feelings of self-consciousness, vulnerability and stress at being judged by their appearance. Interestingly, these feelings are reported by all three of the research participants regardless of shape or size, not only by the women who are overweight. Because she felt self-conscious as the only overweight person in the gym, Rachel had such a negative experience that she never went back. In contrast, Morgan is extremely thin and feels vulnerable getting changed into exercise clothes. "I mean, the idea of getting changed into other clothes to do it [exercise], I sort of shrink away from it. It's like a sort of security thing. I 'm all ready for school, I 'm dressed the way I want to be dressed and I don't want to rearrange all that.. . and it's also, like going swimming even down at the Britannia community pool, it's almost like you strip off a protection." (Morgan, interview #1) A t the same time as the women in the study feel self-conscious that they are being to held to a standard of beauty they cannot achieve, they cope with this attack on their self-esteem by redefining an appropriate body image to one that is "healthy" and "individual" and reject the superficial. "The big thing with women's bodies, I mean, I think that you can be healthy and have, like a few extra pounds on you as long as you keep your activity and your life at a certain l e v e l . . . but I think that people judge a lot just by weight . . . and 153 don't judge anything else, like what they're eating . . . but I think people on the outside judge that way." (Christina, interview # 1) This focus on individual differences and a variety of appropriate body images is positive for these women because it does not require them to conform to a societal standard. However, there still is a socially prescribed beauty ideal and this individualism implies that the "problem" lies with each woman and as a result coping with feelings of poor self-esteem becomes an exercise in self-discipline. "I found myself not doing some things before because I was really self-conscious about what I looked like, and especially when I was working out and that. A n d that I really need to get over that feeling that I 'm not there for everyone else, I 'm there for me . . . it 's still hard though because . . . you can't help but feel self-conscious sometimes so it's hard to get over that feeling . . . I just keep trying to think that yes, I 'm doing this for me. I feel good when I 'm doing it so who cares what anyone else thinks." (Christina, interview #2) This sentiment was shared by all three of the women in this study as they struggled to ignore what other people may think and do things for themselves. However, not only do they have to resist external social pressures, they have to deal with their own conflicting perceptions of themselves. A s was discussed earlier, the research participants report feelings of poor self-esteem and depression in part because of the demands of their children leaving no time for self-care, their inability to plan and achieve goals, and their social isolation as single mothers. These feelings of low personal value are compounded by their inability to meet the beauty ideal of the perfect body as they simultaneously recognize that the physical body should be valued for more than appearance. However, this mixed perception of the body is also held by the women with respect to their own bodies. This conflict is expressed by Morgan when she describes her own experience of herself as a strong person picking mushrooms in the wilds in comparison to the way she knows others see her: 154 "The funny thing is I have this image of myself as being this really big strong person, and then it always is a real shock to me when people say 'Oh , you're so little and thin' and stuff... I feel like this huge muscle-y person." (Morgan, interview #2) A s for many women in our society, food plays an important part in body image for these women. Morgan reports being anorexic when she was younger and continues to have the perception of herself as a big person even though she is not. Both Christina and Rachel are aware that they are overweight and report eating very little during the day but snacking or bingeing after supper and in the evening after the children are in bed. The use of food by these women is influenced by body image as well as by their responsibilities as mothers. A s was reported earlier, feeding their children comes first and feeding themselves comes second. Being mothers also impacts body image as a result of the disorienting effect of physical changes that result from giving birth. "fused to be thin and svelte, and had quite the little bod on me. But, then I had the kids and I was so overwhelmed with parenting and doing everything that you had to do and whatever, that in the beginning I was starving and bitchy and having a heck of a time. But I just found that a lot of days it [eating] wasn't forethought in my mind. I.was busy doing other things and didn't put aside the time to eat. So now it's like a habit, the thought of eating first thing in the morning is just, ughh, I just can't even think of it." (Rachel, Discussion group) It is interesting to note the change in self-perception that Rachel has experienced since she became a mother. When describing herself as a teenager she recalls gaining weight during puberty and feeling uncomfortable with her body and doing physical activity. N o w she reports that she was actually quite physically attractive in comparison to her present feelings about her body. Morgan also reports a change in how she feels about her body since having a child, which includes a greater emphasis on the utilitarian purpose of the body. " N o w I don't care about my body so much, because since I was pregnant I've realized that bodies aren't for impressing other people, they're for a far more . essential purpose than that. So I don't walk around worrying that my waist isn't 155 small enough or that my boobs aren't big enough anymore. N o w my focus is more turning to maintenance of my health." (Morgan, interview #2) There is tension in this conflict between the sense of the body the sense of physical activity for these women. A s was described earlier, physical activity can provide energy and help the women feel good about themselves at the same time that it can be physically painful and a psychologically negative experience. This tension seems to create a certain ambivalence for these women about their bodies and about physical activity. Perhaps this is why physical activity for the purpose of improving appearance has not provided sufficient motivation for maintaining a high level of physical activity. Interestingly the research participants report that they perceive physical activity, along with eating habits and nutrition, as more important for improving and maintaining their health than they did when they were younger. "I guess one really good reason for doing exercise is that it makes you hungry, it normalizes your metabolism and your rhythms, so that's another good reason for doing it." (Morgan, Discussion group) However, knowledge becomes an important issue when making decisions about what and how much to exercise or to eat. Rachel knows that she should develop more regular eating habits but instead identifies her lack of knowledge about which foods are "high energy" as the most significant barrier to her improving her nutrition and energy level. Christina also knows that she should improve her eating habits but puts a higher priority on buying organic foods and packaged foods from a health-food store than on eating regular meals, which would be a less expensive and potentially healthier choice. The same pattern appears for exercise where the women in this study talk about going to the gym to "work out" as the primary way to increase their physical activity. It is only over the course of the interviews that they started to consider the benefits of the physical activity they do in daily life and what it would mean to increase it. 156 Finally, body image is closely associated with the work these women do now as mothers and did in the paid work force before becoming mothers. For these women it appears to be acceptable to be slightly overweight and out of shape because of the way pregnancy changes your body and how you must devote yourself to the baby, especially during the first year. What is important is the ability of the body to perform the activities that must be done such as child care and housework. This means conserving energy and ignoring pain unless it is incapacitating. The body becomes a tool and appearance is generally disregarded. "I think I almost hurt my back too because I do a lot of bending and picking h im. up and kind of moving him around and he's started to get heavy . . . I remembered that it was bothering me that day. But I was still O K I think. I know that that day actually turned out to be a really good day . . . I was still doing everything that I needed to do." (Christina, interview #2) However, this begins to change as the children get older, especially i f the women want to get into the workforce. Rachel is very aware of this and is planning to take a pre-employment course to deal with some of her self-consciousness about how she presents herself. Morgan has already experienced first hand the importance of body image for women in the workplace, as she describes in a discussion of her exercise routine while she was working for a head-hunting firm in London: " M y old concern for my body image was still there . . . so that's when I started swimming 40 laps every lunch . . . I would swim, and swim and swim and swim. I had terribly low self-esteem and constantly felt my body wasn't good enough, that I was too fat . . . but I was eating and I was making loads of money and I was with very dynamic people, so you know it wasn't all bad. A n d I started really exercising vigorously. But again, it was more because of body image. It wasn't because I thought 'Hey, I 'd like to be healthy and fit'. I mean I used to smoke loads and loads." (Morgan, interview #2) 157 For Morgan the transition to exercising for health seems to be a result of a change in the perception of her body following work which required her to be strong rather than beautiful. After coming to Canada, Morgan became a mushroom picker in the wilds of B C . "You're tough and fit and I liked that. Then it gave me the challenge of being tough. I actually started to want to be tough rather than be 'pretty', and have a good body. I was doing it because I wanted to be tough and have big muscles and, you know, be able to survive in the wi ld and that kind of a challenge." (Morgan, interview #2) The other two women also talk about the importance of increasing their physical activity to maintain and improve their health. Each of the women in this study relates this change to the wisdom that comes with getting older, the realization that they need to take care of themselves for themselves as well as their children, and that body image is only one reason for exercising. A s a resource then, body image is closely associated with physical activity and has been an important factor in, or reason for, exercising. However, it appears that for the women in this study, actually planning to exercise is a result in a change of priorities from body image to health and well-being. This is not to say body image is unimportant but there has been a change in emphasis for these women. Health and Self-Care The women in this study share quite a sophisticated understanding of health that simultaneously distinguishes between health and well-being and links them together. For all three of the research participants, health means the absence of disease. However, they also suggest that a true understanding of health should include how they feel and their personal well-being. When asked to describe what it means to be healthy, Christina relates health to having a positive energy level: "I think [health is] when you feel like you have energy and you're not tired . . . I think you feel kind of good, you just kind of have a sense of well-being. Like , 158 you can feel that you have the energy to do the things that you want to do and that you're enjoying the things that you're doing." (Christina, interview #1) In response to this same question Morgan reflects on the importance of mental and emotional well-being: "I think a lot of it [health] has got to do with your state of mind, too. I mean, you can be going to the gym everyday, and be totally unhealthy because you're thinking very negative thoughts. So, it's not just your body, you've got to be healthy in mind too, the way you're thinking and the way you're dealing with what's going on." (Morgan, Discussion group) In fact, in language reminiscent of the wellness continuum articulated in the literature that moves from health as the absence of disease to high level wellness, the research participants describe health and well-being as a series of levels. "There is a more complete well-being you can have i f you are physically fit, is how I say it now. I think you can have good well-being without being physically fit, but . . . there's well-being and then there's well-being, right — it's a different level of well-being." (Morgan, interview #1) The complex relationship between health and well-being is also articulated by the research participants and nicely summed up by Morgan when asked: " I f you have good well-being do you necessarily have good health?". She responded by suggesting that she has been paying less attention to her physical health and more attention to her mental arid emotional well-being. "No , I mean definitely not. I've replaced health with well-being, in fact." (Morgan, Discussion group) The dimensions of health and well-being come out in discussions about the things that the research participants do (or should do) to maintain positive health. These dimensions include spirituality, mind-body connection, family relationships, good nutrition and exercise. The woinen in this study do not generally articulate specific health goals or issues, and find it easier 159 to talk about health behaviours such as eating less fat, exercising and drinking more water. It is not clear i f this is because they are not aware of the dimensions of health or the factors which contribute to positive health, or i f they do not connect the various health behaviours to specific health outcomes. When asked to speak about any current health concerns, the women in this study all claimed to be in excellent health, even though they had earlier spoken of chronic pain, stress, anxiety and a lack of energy. For example, when prompted about her neck and shoulder problems as a result of whiplash injuries, Morgan reluctantly agreed that it has limited her physical capacity somewhat. "The most important health problems? I don't have any health problems — I 'm short sighted, is that a health problem? I have to wear contact lenses . . . O K , that would be the only thing that bothers me is that I get neck and shoulder discomfort when I've been carrying really heavy stuff. But it's not chronic — it doesn't bother me all the time — well it bothers me quite a lot actually, but I 'm so used to it that I don't really [notice]." (Morgan, interview #1) When speaking of health worries for the future, the discussions tended to revolve around preventive health behaviours. Related health problems were only spoken of when I prompted them. A l l of the women spoke of their need to improve their nutrition and eating habits, and Rachel and Christina identified being overweight as a health problem for them. "I equate it all to being thin — I ' l l be healthy when I 'm thin." (Rachel, Discussion group) While Morgan had already quit smoking because of her son's asthma, Rachel still smokes, although she has cut back on the amount and now only smokes outside, a change that resulted from a serious illness of her son. She says she wants to quit but finds it addictive and says that it is something she does for herself and enjoys. With respect to disease, Morgan mentioned her concern about osteoporosis and fear of falling, as well as heart disease as a result 160 of worries about high cholesterol. For Christina the most important diseases were diabetes and various cancers that have appeared in her mother's family as a result of smoking and use of the Dalkon Shield (an intrauterine contraception device found to be faulty and the subject of a successful court order claim), and for Rachel it was heart disease and lung cancer because of her smoking and the risk factor of being overweight. A n d finally, stress and coping were important health issues felt by each of the women in their day to day lives. It is interesting to note that, when asked about health worries or concerns the women in this study spoke of disease and preventive health behaviours. This seems to be in contrast to their comments when asked about positive health. When asked about how they know when they are healthy, the women's answers centred around feelings o f well-being and a "healthful" appearance, especially in relation to their children. Their own health was not as important as the health of their children, which they are very aware of. "I work really hard at keeping the kids healthy too, or trying to . . . I did what I did to myself, but it's not going to happen to my kids. So I 'm very careful about making sure they've got their [health] — running around, and eating healthy, and doing all that kind of stuff — as opposed to myself because they can be kids and I have to take on everything else." (Rachel, Discussion group) While feelings of well-being were reported as important for health and a legitimate health goal, there is an obvious tension between wanting to feel well and wanting to appear well or attractive. The women in this study tended to agree that for adults we have a preconceived idea of what healthy should look like that is superficial and does not consider individual differences. This preconceived notion for women generally means slim and youthful, which may be inappropriate for many people. However, the research participants recognized how difficult it is not to make a judgment based on appearance. 161 "No I don't think that just by looking at somebody you can say they're healthy. But I mean, my thoughts are definitely jaded. Like I said, I equate being healthy to being thin . . . I admit I do it. Y o u have your preconceived idea of what healthy looks like, what you think it looks like and yeah, I agree with that, I do." (Rachel, Discussion group) This potential contradiction between looking healthy and being healthy creates difficulty for the women in this study. For example, Rachel starts by explaining that she wants to be thin and healthy: "I want to be thin! . . . that is my first and foremost goal, is to be thin and healthy. To be able to walk up a flight of stairs without being beet red." (Rachel, interview #2) When asked i f she means thin first and then healthy she reconsiders: "No (laugh).. . I would have, before doing this, I would have said thin first and then healthy and I would have actually thought about it in that sense. But no, no definitely healthy first, because like we were talking before, obviously I 'm not going to be thin [and] you can't get thin without [ being healthy]. W e l l yeah, you can, but . . . I want to get healthy as I 'm on my way to becoming thin. Whereas before I would have said that I have to be thin. Health wouldn't even have entered into it. So yeah, definitely that is like the major goal in my life." (Rachel, interview #2) However it is not clear i f health has become an important priority for Rachel because she is more aware of the various dimensions of health and well-being and the impact that positive health can have on her life, or i f it is because "health" appears to be a more achievable goal than "thin". When asked during the discussion group about the contribution of physical activity to health, the women in this study make a distinction between physical health and mental and emotional well-being. Both Morgan and Rachel recognize the link that physical activity can create between health and well-being, but each articulates a different sense of it based on her own experience of physical activity. Morgan has enjoyed physical activity in the past and appears to be much more likely to see the benefit to her well-being, while Rachel draws on her 162 negative experience and seems to recognize the damage physical activity can do to personal well-being. However, both have clearly accepted that physical activity is beneficial for "health". "Rachel: I think [physical activity contributes to health] to a certain point. If physical activity or exercise makes you happy, then that's going to contribute to your well-being. But, physical activity is not all what contributes to your [well-being], I mean [not all] what makes up the whole package of your well-being. Does that make sense? Do you know what I mean? That's not the whole [thing], [not] the only factor in well-being. But I think i f it 's what makes you feel good then it definitely makes up part of your [well-being]. Morgan: But it would be a major contributor to health. Rachel: Yes. Morgan: A n d that's why I want to do more of it, because I 'm sure that generally I would f ee l . . . I know that it would enhance my sense of well-being because it's the same as completing a school assignment. Y o u feel a sense of achievement after you've done some really good exercise, be it a workout in the gym or a good hike. Y o u come back and you feel that sense of wel l - being throughout your body and your health improves as well . So it would contribute to it [health], definitely." (Discussion group) For the women in this study, the importance of their personal health and well-being is only significant i f they are sick or i f the needs of their children are already met. It is only i f they recognize that their lack of health or well-being is negatively impacting their ability to meet their children's needs, or i f they feel they have met their children's needs and have some energy to turn to themselves that these low-income single mothers pay attention to their own needs. A s was discussed earlier with respect to energy and effort, any strategy that enhances energy becomes something that they do for themselves. "Yeah, and I need it [time for myself]. I know I need it and I would feel much better. I think I 'd be a lot healthier just emotionally, having some time for myself, and I think I would enjoy the time. When I 'm away I feel much more refreshed when I come back . . . to take care of him [Joshua]." (Christina, interview #1) Taking time for themselves may involve physical activity, but it more likely includes quiet time resting, reading or watching television, or developing aspects of the self which do not 163 receive stimulation through the role of mother and provider. For Morgan this meant returning to school: "I was learning how to deal with a kid, but focused on someone else. N o w I 'm focusing back on myself and going ' O K , well what can I do with my brain?' . . . my school work has been really important to me. I did really well last term because I focused really well on it. So that's a big priority for me too, right now, . because I have something to prove to myself about my ability." (Morgan, interview #1) Physical activity is only considered to be self-care i f it can be enjoyed. This appears to be true even though these women are receiving advice from their doctors to be more active. Both Morgan and Rachel have spoken with their doctors about their health concerns and have been told what to do but not how to do it or enjoy it and make it meaningful. " W e l l yeah, and plus I hear it from my doctor too . . . I ' l l go and complain ' I 'm so tired all the time' and then she makes me look back on [my habits]... is it because you're not doing this or you're not eating that, or you're not drinking this, or not doing whatever, right. So that's what makes it hard, cause a lot of it is lifestyle change, you know." (Rachel, interview #2) Health is an important resource which these women take for granted, as many of us do. A s caretakers they are vigilant about the health of their children but are often unable, to take care of their own well-being, possibly because the demands of daily life do not allow the time or energy, or because of a lack of knowledge. However, each of these women recognize that their health includes mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions in addition to the physical. A s a result physical activity does not seem to them to be as important to health and well-being as the "experts" claim based on their personal context of negative past experiences and a lack of time and energy. 164 Social Identity Social identity grounded in personal values and a sense of purpose appears to be significant for understanding physical activity in the context of daily life. The defining purpose in the daily lives of each of the research participants is their role and responsibilities as a mother. However this underlying meaning for their lives is not accepted without a sense of conflict. A s was discussed earlier, the demands of being a single mother often require that time and energy be used, and choices made, for the well-being of the children, often to the detriment of themselves. This conflict between personal needs and caring for children appears to create a situation where the women do not value themselves i n any role other than motherhood. "I should be doing it [activities in the park and swimming] more vigorously and taking advantage of it for myself and not just for them." (Rachel, interview #2) When this is combined with their awareness of the low social value their job as a low-income single mother has in society, the result appears to be a general lack of purpose, a lowering of self-esteem and blaming themselves for not doing what they "should" do. It is in this context that the women in this study speak of their recognition that they need to do things "for me" and that taking care of themselves can benefit the work they do as mothers and ultimately help them to find meaningful work in paid employment. This process of valuing of themselves often takes the form of self-care such as taking time for themselves, eating better, exercising or merely using affirmations to support themselves emotionally. It also takes the form of planning, and implementing changes in their lives including the establishment of positive and supportive relationships or going back to school in preparation for returning to paid employment. A s a result of focusing more on themselves, the women in this study report that they are happier, more fulfilled and have a greater sense of purpose. 165 Before her son was born Christina drifted into college and then into the work world without any sense of where she wanted to be. "I didn't know what I wanted to do and I did a number of jobs. I was working a number of different jobs and I wasn't happy. So after about six months I 'd work a job, and I 'd work more than one job at a time, and I 'd be like, 'Oh , I just can't stand doing this', so I 'd change to something else. A n d that went on for a while, that was like 2 years." (Christina, interview #2) Having her son helped Christina gain a greater sense of purpose which has helped her to take control of her financial situation and to start planning her education and career: " I 'm waiting for my Open Learning [information]. There's a program that I can take for low income [so] that I can get the Ministry to help me pay for some of my courses that I can take at home. I 'm taking university transfer credits .. . I actually want to take dental hygiene, but I need first year university credits just to apply to my program. A n d I 'm thinking too, i f I 'm going to take first year university I might as well continue on my own, after, even when I get in to my program, and continue on with my university credits . . . I don't know what I really want, but I ' l l just keep going with that too 'cause . . . it's almost like, not a waste of a year, but I might as well just continue with it." (Christina, interview #1) Morgan also describes her search for a sense of purpose that goes beyond her responsibilities as a mother but is also compatible with them. "So I was sort of floating around with a lot of potential but with no actual focus. So my aim in going back to school was to sample different courses . . . to really try and identify what it is I should sink my energies into . . . the trouble before was I had jobs but I didn't really like any of them, which is why I didn't stick at them. I was good at doing them but they didn't really grab me. So, I don't want — I can't be flirting around — well I mean, we're all going to have to jump from job to job is what I 'm hearing, but I need to find out what kind of jobs I should be jumping to and from." (Morgan, interview #1) While the women in this study are able to make a direct connection between having a purpose and making changes to support that purpose such as going back to school and planning for their career, the relationship between physical activity and a sense of purpose is not as clear. When asked to imagine the implications physical activity has for their three most important 166 lifelong goals or dreams, the women in this study could clearly connect those dreams that are "to do something" with physical activity. For example, Christina dreams of hiking the West Coast Trail one day and knows that the physical stress of it w i l l require that she have a good level of fitness. Morgan enjoys travelling and would like to return to it when her son is older and maybe even work as a travel writer. Again physical fitness has important implication for her being able to achieve this goal. In contrast, dreams that are "to be something" such as being happy, healthy, intellectually challenged, or thin, are understood to be only distantly related to physical activity. I would speculate that this difficulty in making a direct connection between the concepts of physical activity and health may be as a result of a lack of knowledge about the benefits of physical activity. However, it may have more to do with the fact that the daily struggle makes it difficult to imagine a larger purpose for life, let alone make plans to achieve goals. In fact, Rachel expressed a clear discomfort with any conversation related to dreams or personal goals. "Yeah, [if I stay healthy through physical activity] then I 'm going to be around to be able to do the other things I want to do in my life. A n d like I said, I 'm very simple, so it's not like I have these big [dreams]. I don't know, I always hated that question." (Rachel, interview #2) A s a resource for physical activity, having a purpose or a set of values which connects to physical activity can be important for supporting physical activity in daily life. However, when the struggle of daily life involves worrying about having enough food for the children or how to pay the rent, a purpose that can be connected to physical activity in any kind of meaningful way seems unimaginable. 167 Environment and Safety The importance of the environment for these low-income single mothers was most pronounced when they spoke of health, safety and social support. Because Cedar Court is a new building, clean, safe and comfortable, it was never referred to as an unhealthy place. However, the building is beside a very busy road that was mentioned specifically in discussions of health and safety concerns by two of the research participants. Christina commented on her reluctance to bicycle on the roadway because of the large amount of fast moving traffic while Morgan referred to her concerns about pollution: "I live next to 1 2 t h Avenue, which actually is quite interesting because I thought I would be way more unhealthy. I mean, actually the car fumes don't appear to affect me at al l . I don't get headaches, I don't get short of breath — so it begs the question about how bad it actually is, but — it's still a worry." (Morgan, interview # 1 ) • However, concerns about the environment and support of well-being were also mentioned in terms of the lack of a 'natural' environment, especially by Morgan who is sensitive to this issue. " A n d when I 'm outdoors . . . that's one of the allures for me. I find it really inspiring to be out there, where [there are] trees, snow, stuff that's not conscious. It's the beauty of our world that we don't see when you look out the window and see a whole bunch of cars going by. Which would you prefer? (laugh) Mountains in the snow or 1 2 t h Avenue? Wel l , I 'd rather have mountains in the snow." (Morgan, interview # 1 ) A s was mentioned earlier in the discussion of social support, the environment within Cedar Court has had a significant impact on the research participants. It is both a positive environment because of the safety and security is provides, and a potentially negative one because everyone knows everyone else's business. However, all three of the women in this study generally see l iving in Cedar Court as a positive thing. While each woman takes advantage of 168 the available social support in her own way, Cedar Court fulfills the role of 'family' in the absence of other family relationships as a result of choice or distance. For Morgan, who recently left an abusive relationship, this means simply acceptance: "But I think a lot of that [feeling comfortable] is supported by the fact that we are in this atmosphere of women, where you are not feeling self-conscious, you don't feel judged. Whereas outside that door . . . you might feel like [you are being judged] — I can't think of an example because I don't really feel that way anymore." (Morgan, Discussion group) While for Christina it is more about friendship: "I think it's been really nice because I've been able to form a couple bonds with people so that they can take Joshua for me too. A n d as well , I just find the emotional support... I think just the emotional support has really helped me out to be able get to the point where I 'm at now. I just feel that I 'm so lucky that I was able to get in here." (Christina, interview #2) Wi th respect to physical activity, the women in this study did not make a direct connection between their amount or type of activity and Cedar Court or its location until prompted. In fact until she was asked about it directly, Rachel had not considered that her planned move to a nearby suburb would mean that she would not be able to walk to do her errands as she was presently choosing to do while l iving at Cedar Court. It seems that the context of physical activity does not become conscious until there is no choice. Morgan articulates the importance of choice clearly when she talks about how Cedar Court influences her physical activity: " W e l l , ironically, I think I do less physical activity because I live here, because it's the first time I've actually had an apartment which is totally mine . . . it 's basically given me a choice. It's left it totally up to me. There's been no motivation from anybody else to go out there and do anything . . . so in the long run it w i l l probably contribute to me going out and doing stuff. But when you're very emotionally drained, I don't think you really have a lot of energy for exercise, at least I know I didn't." (Morgan, interview #2) 169 In contrast to Morgan, Christina often chooses to walk in order to get out of the house. She also has access to a bus pass now so walking appears to be even more of a choice. However as with Rachel and Morgan, Christina feels that her physical activity is mostly influenced by the weather rather than by the fact that she lives at Cedar Court. The location of Cedar Court is such that parks and public transportation are easily accessed, and services are within easy walking distance; the women also report that they feel the community is fairly safe. In spite of the fact that these factors are supportive of their physical activity, it is the idea of choice that the women in this study mention when asked how their environment influences their activity. The aspects of the community that may restrict physical activity, such as the number of street people and amount of crime reported in the area, were not associated with the quality of physical activity unless I prompted. When asked directly about when and where they choose to walk in the community, the women in the study explain that they do consider safety. Each of the three research participants mentioned that they either do not walk at night, or that they do not walk alone, a practice which is shared by many women in cities regardless of the neighbourhood. Morgan reports that she is conscious of the way she walks as well . "I walk fast and I have quite a masculine stride so I believe that the safest thing to do is to walk in the middle of the pavement and clump along 'cause you don't look vulnerable that way. If you're walking along hugging the side and looking afraid then you're more likely to attract undesirable attention." (Morgan, . interview #2) A n d even though the women in the study acknowledge that they make these decisions based on their perception of the community, they generally do not see it as a direct influence. "No , I don't know so much that it influences [me]. I mean we still go out and about. I mean it may influence a route that I might take to get to somewhere, but no, I mean we still are out and doing things." (Rachel, interview #2) 170 These women report that they are very aware and concerned about safety in their community when it impacts their children. Rachel and Morgan are most concerned about this because their children are old enough to ask questions about what they see. "It is, it 's harsh . . . when I 'm by myself I find it sad, but when I've got Arthur I just want to get away. It's l ike, 'Get away from my k id! ' . . . oh yeah, [he notices street people] but he's stopped asking so much now 'cause he's used to them. But at first he would be like 'What did that man ask you?'. A n d I 'd say ' W e l l he asked me for some money and I said I didn't have any'. A n d he used to go to day care down in the lower east side, at Crabtree Corner . . . so I mean he'd see drunks lying in door ways and stuff... it's really harsh. In fact we used to walk through the alley way with him from Hastings, used to cut through, until I walked past two guys fixing one day and decided that wasn't a good idea. A n d he would say 'What's wrong with that guy?' so I got to explain drinking and drugs at an early age so he knows all about drug dealers and drunks and drinking too much. A n d he knows it's O K to have a little bit of alcohol, but it's hard to make a distinction between you can't have a little bit o f drugs because a little bit of drugs is too dangerous." (Morgan, interview #2) Rachel's boys are also getting used to what they see on the streets but Rachel worries about the emotional impact on them. "He takes everything on so he's not comfortable anymore . . . he's seen far, far too much than I think that he needs to see .. everybody says ' W e l l you know it's happening everywhere.' We l l yeah, it is but in a lot of areas it's happening to a lesser degree . . . and it's not in your face. Whereas here it's a very in your face sort of a neighbourhood, right. Which is fine, but I mean I just kind of feel like being here in some way David's had to grow up a lot faster and mature a little bit faster . . . I 'm not very comfortable with some of the things he's seen or does see. A n d he's not comfortable with it, he expresses that to me." (Rachel, interview #2) Because Christina's son is so young she does not worry so much about what he sees so long as she can keep him safe. Just as for the other two women, Christina chooses her routes for safety and to fit her schedule, even i f it means travelling a bit further out of her way. In fact, she likes leaving the neighbourhood to use her subsidized exercise pass at the Y W C A downtown even though the community centres are closer and also have a variety of subsidized programs. 171 She explains that the local community centres are a bit grubby and require more planning because their hours are more restricted. "I just find that I love that facility [the Y W C A ] , the new one. The Y is just so nice that, I don't know, it's just so spa like . . . I just feel like ' O h wow! ' I 'd much rather go there and go swimming. A n d I think too 'cause it's a new building, it 's so bright and cheery . . . have you been to Britannia? It's really dark and dingy and the bathrooms are really dirty every time I go . . . I just really enjoy myself a lot better at the Y . " (Christina, interview #2) A s was described earlier, the women in this study do use the community recreation facilities and Leisure Access Card system to access programs which they can do with their children like swimming and skating. However, one of the most important and supportive aspects of the community are the services provided for low-income families and single mothers like themselves. "There's so much out there for single moms and kids in regards to food banks, second-hand clothing, free clothing, this and that. So I mean, there's a lot less that I have to worry about, as opposed to being over in Victoria now where they're still not the same as Vancouver. L iv ing over there I would have a lot more to worry about and I could see money being a huge issue. But being here in Vancouver it's totally, totally different because there's so much more available to, single moms." (Rachel, interview #2) A l l three of the women in this study indicated that Cedar Cottage is a supportive community for them. However, it is not clear how much of this is connected to the physical attributes and culture of the actual housing project and surrounding community, the Vancouver community as a whole, or simply the contrast with previous places that they have lived. The final important aspect of the environment is the type and location of the paid and unpaid work performed by the research participants. Earlier in this chapter the work of daily chores and household responsibilities was detailed. However, other types of paid and unpaid labour are also important for understanding physical activity in daily life. For example, 172 volunteer work plays an important part in both activity and a sense of purpose for these women. During the interviews, Morgan spoke of helping a friend working with a f i lm festival put up some posters around the city, while Rachel mentioned that she had started to do some volunteer work at a community neighbourhood house. Christina organized a community kitchen for Cedar Court and found it very positive for her self-esteem. "[We did a] community kitchen that I totally organized and got it all working. A n d there was three of us all together, and so that worked out really wel l . " (Christina, interview #1) The work of being a student was also important for shaping daily life for Morgan. Going to college required that she have her day organized and that she use public transportation to get downtown several days a week. But even i f a schedule has been established that works, the routine is only as secure as the childcare arrangements. A t the time of the interviews Morgan was already worrying about what to do for September when Arthur becomes too old for his present day care. Rachel was also planning to start her pre-employment program and was wondering how she would be able to keep the household routine going. • "I worry about once I start school 'cause once I start school I 'm not going to have the time — I actually just thought of this now — I 'm not going to have the time to walk them to school. T am going to have to take the bus because it's a little bit quicker and, you know, I have to get started so early i n the morning and stuff like that." (Rachel, interview #1) Having the time, energy and financial resources to plan their day is not something these women take for granted. They often have to make trade-offs between what would be good for them physically and emotionally, and what would be best for their children. Not surprisingly, the children come first. This is especially true when they are working or planning to return to work. A s was noted earlier, Morgan's most recent work as a mushroom picker is not conducive to being a single mother so she is back at school in the hope of getting some direction for her 173 working career. Rachel found her past work experience in the service industry exhausting with long hours and poor pay, also not supportive of her responsibilities as a single mother. A s a forestry technician Christina feels she would not have the stability necessary to raise her son so she wants to retrain for the dental field. For all of these women the physical activity in the jobs they want to leave is significant, characterized by travel and repetition. Because the women in this study are on social assistance and not officially in paid employment, the work they do to make extra money tends to be manual labour and not recognized as work. In fact, Christina almost forgot to mention it when asked about her daily activity. "I actually was helping a couple other women in the building keep their places clean, and that was quite overwhelming sometimes. I would try and do it when he [Joshua] would lay down for a nap and use my baby monitor . . . so I would clean those two places and that was helping out [financially] a l o t . . . that was much more of a physical thing because I was more rushed . . . it was hard to plan it and i f I brought him with me it would take me twice as long — I 'm cleaning up the messes that he's made while I 'm trying to clean!" (Christina, interview #1) Rachel also did some work in the building that contributed to her daily activity. "I help out a lot around the building so I 'm constantly up and down the stairs at people's apartments and stuff, and down at the office and . . . fixing things you know, toilets, helping with painting, that sort of thing." (Rachel, interview #1) A s an environment, Cedar Court is important both as a supportive community where the women find safety, friendship, help with child care, and even a few extra dollars for casual labour. While the paid work they do is important for supplementing their incomes, it is the unpaid work as mothers, volunteers and students which gives them meaning and purpose in their lives. However, motherhood and the community can also be understood as constraints in the daily lives of these women. Their daily lives are shaped by their responsibilities as single mothers and by the physical community within which they live. 174 Financial Resources A close look at the daily lives of these three low-income single mothers makes it clear that what are typically considered to be income-dependent resources for l iving such as money, employment, education, housing, community facilities, transportation and child care, are fundamental to the structure and experience of daily life. While the research participants share the same housing and access to community facilities and public transportation, their income, employment, education and child care arrangements vary considerably. What is interesting to note is that in spite of these differences none of the women identify financial resources as important for how physical activity is practiced in daily life. They admit that money limits their potential for some recreational opportunities, but that those are not part of daily life. In fact, when asked i f there was anything which could make their daily lives easier, the initial response from all three of the research participants was "no". After some consideration they admitted that having a car would give them more choice, but stated that even i f they had money they would still have the same household responsibilities. " I f I had a car I would probably drive the kids to school and whatever. But, then I look at it in the sense that i f I didn't have to do all of those things, it would leave me open to do different things, you know what I mean? Like going on hikes, or spending more time at the park, or spending more time at the pool with the kids, or even just walking for me, like going somewhere that I want to go and walking there, that kind of a thing . . . I wouldn't be just sitting on the couch like a blump and doing nothing. So yeah, I think it would just leave it open a lot more for other stuff." (Rachel, interview #1) Paying someone to come in to clean as some of the other women in their building do, joining a health club, having groceries delivered, hiring a nanny, or going to school full-time are options that seem to be so far from the reality of the women who participated in this study that 175 they were not even imagined. A s a result they see their necessary physical activity as unchangeable, just as being a mother is irreversible. The^eality of the limited resources these women have to draw on in daily life can be observed in the way they speak about the things they have struggled with in the past and their plans for the future. For example, even though things have improved for Christina, she was so financially strapped that she did not always have enough food for herself. "I was having problems with my worker and finally I talked to her supervisor and so I got a lot of things done. They're actually supplementing my B C Benefits so I have more money. It's a hundred dollars more a month, which before I could hardly afford food. I was really worried that I didn't have enough for him, and so I'd feed him [first]." (Christina, interview #2) A n d even though Christina has declared bankruptcy so that she w i l l not have to default on her student loans, she is still on social assistance and would not be financially secure i f she had to deal with an unexpected crisis. This precarious situation is shared by Rachel, and even though Morgan does get some financial support from her ex-husband it is not reliable, or as she explains it to her son, it is "unpredictable". Rachel takes her situation for granted and says that she does not see money as an issue because she grew up without it and has "simple tastes". However, her financial situation causes her to go out of her way to buy the cheapest groceries. Morgan worries that she w i l l not be able to continue her studies i f she cannot find an affordable quality day care for Arthur in September. A n d even i f she finds a day care she is worried that she won't be able to go to school full time because she can't afford the student loan. The struggle and uncertainty of this situation for each of the women takes its toll as stress and anxiety. While physical activity could help them deal with the stress, it cannot resolve the underlying issues of poverty and single parenthood. 176 Financial resources also impact physical activity by making it less likely that those people who grew up in families with limited incomes engaged in the same diversity and number of activities as those who grew up in more middle-class families. This limited exposure to physical activities that require financial resources to learn and practice may impact participation among adults by constraining those individuals from low-income families who may not have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge. For example, Morgan and Christina both come from middle-class families where exercise was valued at least in some respect. They developed a physical knowledge and confidence that allows them to include a variety of activities in their lives and consider learning new ones without a huge fear of failure. In contrast, Rachel shares a self-consciousness about weight and body image with Christina, but finds it more difficult to learn a new activity such ice skating. "I did [skate] for a few minutes, and then [I quit] 'cause the skates were hurting my feet and I just felt stupid. A n d you know, there's my kids and I 'm holding on to a cone . . . but I mean I spent most of my time hanging on to the side boards or whatever. I think we did a couple of rounds around the thing. But then it just is like, I've had enough." (Rachel, Discussion group) Finally, access to facilities and equipment has an important influence on daily physical activity, especially recreation activities. Because the City of Vancouver has a Leisure Access Card program for low-income families, the community centre programs are accessible to the research participants. However, the programs are not always scheduled in a manner that is easy to incorporate in daily life without access to child care, and the facilities themselves may not be of a high quality. Because these women do not have the money to take their business elsewhere they are stuck with whatever is offered in their community. If the women in this study choose to organize their own recreation activity they are similarly constrained by financial resources. For example, Morgan makes tobogganing an annual . 1 7 7 event but would also like to make regular trips to the mountains for cross-country skiing. Unfortunately she does not have the money to make this possible. Christina is frustrated because she has a bicycle but does not feel safe cycling on the roads near her home. She managed to acquire a used child seat to put on her bicycle but is missing a necessary bolt. In addition to that, the child helmet she has needs new straps and she does not have a helmet for herself, which is required by law. She also dreams of being able to in-line skate with Joshua instead of walking all the time, but again, money is a problem. "When it comes to money . . . there's things that I wanted to try like roller-blading and I know I would really like it 'cause I've skied and skated, and I think I would really, really enjoy that. A n d it would be nice because I could put him [Joshua] in the stroller and say go around Stanley Park or something. But because I don't have the money to buy the equipment and it's really expensive to rent, that I can't really do that unless I somehow get equipment or — I don't know, there's just some things that you can't really do unless you have equipment." (Christina, interview #2) Financial resources impact the structure of daily life for the women in this study, moderated by the knowledge, experience and attitudes that they bring as individuals. The lack of income is obviously a constraint on the variety and type of choices these low-income single mothers have. However it is not clear i f the reason they do not clearly articulate the influence the lack of financial resources has on their physical activity is because they do not believe it impacts daily life, or i f it is because they feel they have no choice as they struggle to meet the needs of their families and subsume their own personal needs. Control Throughout the interviews and collection of the data, the issue of control appeared in many forms, usually disguised as either choice or change. The research participants described 178 change in life as both a function of the situation, such as being a single mother, and perhaps more importantly, as the result of making change happen within yourself and within your life. This understanding of change suggests a significant feeling of control. However, it is not clear i f this is based on a true ability to make or resist change. Significant change takes a great deal of effort, energy and a certain amount of time, and is more likely i f there have been previous experiences of positive or successful change. However, i f these resources of effort, energy and time have been used up, it is understandable that further change w i l l be less of a priority. For the women in this study, control becomes more about holding things together, limiting choices, protecting themselves, and not putting themselves in situations where they are vulnerable. Structure and routine become very important for keeping a grip on daily life. A t the same time, it is feeling that they have choice that has helped these women to make positive changes in their lives. For example, Christina finally recognized that she did not have to take on the problems of her family and made it clear to them that they should leave her out of it. This resulted in a great deal of peace of mind for her and helped her to focus on her own issues. Similarly, Morgan chose to leave an abusive situation and for the first time lives in her own place and is able to make her own choices about what to do or not. She clearly states that now that she has a choice she chooses not to do additional physical activity but feels that having a choice w i l l make it more likely that she w i l l eventually be able to increase her level of physical activity. Issues of safety and vulnerability appear to be important for determining whether choice and change enhance control or threaten it. The theme of personal safety and control can be observed in the performance of physical activity by the embodied subject. A s Morgan described, pushing her body in a gym setting can 179 be emotionally destructive because of the feeling she is being pushed by the machines and is not in control. "I think it must be something to do with the control, like with the weight, that's what I 'm thinking although it doesn't seem to make much sense. But with the weights I control how fast I do it and it's just me against the weight, and all I have to do is lift the weight and let it down. But with the bike, it 's like there's this whole procedure that you have to go through that's someone else's agenda, the bike's agenda almost!" (Morgan, interview #1) A s a someone who has recovered anorexia, Morgan has a heightened awareness of her need for control of her body. However, her need for an achievable goal does not seem that different from Rachel's desire to be able to climb a flight of stairs without collapsing at the top, or Christina's need to feel that she can plan something and see it implemented successfully, or their shared fear that they w i l l not be able to achieve these objectives. Just feeling that they have some control can make successful change happen even i f they recognize they still have a long way to go. "[Well-being is] knowing that I 'm not in the pits, but that I have more to do, and that's O K . A n d that I can actually, you know, think of a plan to put that into action." (Brenda, Discussion group) For the women in this study, control with respect to physical activity starts with themselves although it appears to be based on a sense of stability and choice provided in some respect by the housing project itself. "It's just now that I 'm sort of starting to get out of that rut . . . I've gained a lot of weight because I made myself feel stuck. I didn't know how to get out of it. A n d moving into this place has helped a lot because there's a lot of support and stuff like that." (Rachel, interview #1) Christina specifically attributes her feeling of being able to be more active to her housing situation at Cedar Court. "I think the fact that, also, I have a nice surroundings and I 'm not struggling to pay my rent [has influenced where I 'm at]." (Christina,.interview #2) 180 The stability of a guaranteed housing seems to be one of the most important factors for enhancing a sense of control for these women. This allows the women to develop plans and routines that further reinforce a sense of control. A n y threat to these plans and routines is perceived as significant and may impact current choices. This can be observed in Morgan's discussion about whether she should increase her level of physical activity at this time when she wi l l only have to change again in a few months when she goes on summer holidays and then again when her son starts school. "I would have to be guaranteed that I would have my days free to do it [exercise]. Right now I have, but the worry is that, for instance in the summer I 'm going to be going to England for 5 weeks, that w i l l break up any routine I have settled in . " (Morgan, interview #2) Planning and routine can also be threatened by changes that are too large and impossible to maintain. Feeling a sense of control requires that plans and goals be achievable. "That's another point, [I need to] start small and then work other activities in so I don't overdo it and feel overwhelmed. So that was the main thing [problem] because I seem to do that [feel overwhelmed] a lot." (Christina, interview #2) Finally, a significant part of understanding the importance of control as a resource for physical activity is being aware of its source. While the research participants generally identify control as a personal attribute exercised by themselves within the constraints of available choices, they also allude to external factors that influence them as a form of control. The women make a distinction between choices that are imposed on them by external expectations and choices that are based on their own priorities. For example, each of the three women in this study speak of rejecting norms of feminine beauty (with varying degrees of success) by refusing to shave their legs, wear make-up, or feel judged when they go out in the community. A n d although all three feel the social pressure to be more active, each has rejected the socially 181 acceptable and normative version of working out in the gym because it was a strongly negative experience. In some respects, this experience appears to have influenced the women to focus on their own priorities and on their own needs, resulting in a greater sense of personal control. "If I was doing things for other people that wasn't hard for me to accomplish them. But i f I was planning things for myself, and that's what I've been noticing, that lately I've been able to plan things for myself and do them. Before, I couldn't." (Christina, interview #2) While it could be argued that this is a false sense of control because of the limited nature of the choices available to these women, understanding physical activity as something that can be done for themselves and that can help them meet their personal goals seems to enhance the potential for increasing levels of physical activity in daily life. Summary of Data Themes The themes that emerged from the data are diagrammed in Figure 2 to provide a graphic summary of the data and facilitate the layering of the data with the organizing framework (Figure 1). The discussion of the relationship between the data and the organizing framework is pursued in the final chapter and organized around the four main analytical concepts that emerged from the process of layering the data and theory. The implications of these analytic concepts for understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income women are also discussed in the final chapter. 182 The Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life Change and Physical Activity Energy and effort self-reliance, keeping control managing stress nutrition and eating habits mind/body balance routines and habits time and planning Health and self-care • health and well-being • behaviours and goals • appearance • benefits of physical activity • priority of self-care Social identity • values and purpose • motherhood • self-care • life goals Financial resources • reality of poverty • class-based knowledge/skill • accessibility Control • choice and change • psychological/emotional safety • stability • location of controL Figure 2 - Data Themes 183 CHAPTER V DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS Introduction The purpose of this research project is to explore the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of low-income women with the intention of understanding the implications of the relationship between daily life and physical activity. This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the theoretical tension between meaning and practice to provide a foundation for understanding 'difference', and to balance my own critical position with that of the research participants. The discussion continues using the four main analytic concepts (Figure 3) that developed out of the process of layering the organizing framework (Figure 1) with the data themes (Figure 2). These analytic concepts are used to answer the three research questions related to understanding the meaning and practice of physical activity in the daily lives of the low-income women who participated in this research. The discussion of the research questions is followed by the consideration of potential implications for future research and for the development of policies and programs. The chapter concludes by asking what this may mean for the women who participated in the study, and for my future practice as a programmer and policy maker. Meaning and Practice "Physical activity is meaningless [in daily life]. You're not feeling like you've accomplished [anything] . . . It's not meaningful, you don't feel like you've done good for your body. You're not thinking in that way." (Rachel, Discussion group) The difficulty with asking what physical activity means in daily life is that even i f the practice of what is done day-to-day can be imagined as'physical activity', the meaning is so 184 closely associated with the responsibilities of daily life and a personal sense of self that it can only be examined and articulated with great difficulty. This creates a problem for the researcher trying to understand and explain 'practice', a difficulty that appears to be rooted in the fact that the individual does not normally compartmentalize life, nor often reflect on how actions are informed by personal values and social norms unless prompted. For example, in the opening quote Rachel speaks of how physical activity in daily life is meaningless, presumably because it is not meaningful. She suggests that it could be meaningful i f it was performed with the intention of benefiting the body, implying that physical activity must be done in a certain way, and possibly in a context other than daily life, for it to have meaning. The meaninglessness of physical activity is therefore not an absence of meaning but a different and potentially negative meaning that Rachel implies but does not make explicit. It is this 'different' meaning that is at the heart of understanding physical activity in daily life, how it is 'the same but different' from exercise. Making sense of this meaning necessarily requires a cultural understanding of physical activity, the body and daily life by considering personal attitudes and values in combination with social structures and norms (Turner, 1984; 1992), especially for populations that have been marginalized within the dominant social structures such as is the case for low-income single mothers (Marin et al., 1995). Because culture is a shared social understanding that contributes to the social construction of meaning, culture can contribute to the deconstruction and examination of the practice and meaning of physical activity in daily life. When Rachel's assertion that "physical activity is meaningless" is considered from the position of the dominant culture it can be strongly supported. Physical activity for women in our society has been described as about controlling the body through diet and exercise to enhance 'feminine' qualities (Birrell & Theberge, 1994) and accepting the moral 185 imperative of exercising to improve health and achieve the perfect body (White et al., 1995). Because the physical activity that is performed in daily life by Rachel and other low-income single mothers is not designed to meet these objectives, it is therefore not socially valued. Rachel implies this in her description of "meaningless" physical activity i n daily life. This illustrates the difficulty of asking people to speak about a practice, shared social meaning or culture that is not part of the dominant discourse. Bellah et al. (1985) describe the difficulty people have making sense of alternative behaviours or meanings when ideas and the language to express them are grounded in middle-class categories that may not be appropriate. This creates a tension between how individuals live and what the culture allows them to say about it, a tension between practice and meaning that also exists for the women who spoke to me about physical activity in their daily lives. In some cases this tension is clearly articulated, as when Morgan explains why she does not exercise by describing the effort of exercise as being the equivalent of the effort required for daily life as a low-income single mother. In other cases the tension between practice and meaning is more obscure, as was described by Christina who cannot explain why she sometimes walks all day pushing her baby in the stroller. Her language suggests that walking is for exercise, but she describes it in the context of getting out of the house, possibly as a socially acceptable way of escaping the struggle of her daily life. It is only by examining the practices (both observed and reported) and the meanings reported by the research participants from a critical perspective that the connection between practice and meaning can be more fully explored and a deeper understanding developed. The use of theory allows for a critical perspective that values the perceptions of the research participants at the same time that it recognizes that meanings perpetuate social structures as well as explain them (Anderson, 1989). 186 Analytic Concepts The analysis presented here is based on four analytic concepts I developed using the process of layering the theory with the data themes, and then integrating these concepts with the organizing framework to provide a richer context for understanding meaning and practice (Figure 3). This analytical process included reflection on shared meanings as well as consideration of 'difference' by using the accounts provided by each of the research participants in combination with my own critical perspective. The objective here is not to present every possible interpretation of the data, but to look closely at what appear to be the dominant practices and meanings for physical activity in daily life as articulated by the low-income single mothers who participated in the research. The implication of contradictions contained within each account and/or in relation to behaviour is also explored. While the research questions are considered throughout the discussion of analytic concepts, they are summarized in detail in the next section that deals more fully with the discussion of the research questions. 187 Organizing Framework Structure ('public' or chance) Agency ('private' or choice) Social and Cultural Norms and Values Lifestyle (behaviour with meaning)^  leisure and recreation chores and work health and self-care beauty/appearance The Social Body (constraint and support)x • class • control/release • morality The Individual (resources or 'capital') • cultural • economic • gender The Lived Body (resistance and conformity) • normal/ problematic disciplinary gaze mind/body split Place (ecology of physical activity} place and space individualism resources Meaning and Practice Work and Leisure Well-being and health Quality of life Power and control (duty versus pleasure) (personal) (social) (public and private) Figure 3 - Organizing Framework: Conceptualizing the Meaning and Practice of Physical Activity in Daily Life for Low-Income Single Mothers 188 Work and Leisure (duty versus pleasure) The practice of physical activity for the women in this study very clearly centres around their job and the responsibilities of motherhood. This analytic concept relating to the experience of physical activity as work and leisure in daily life speaks directly to the third research question that asks "How is physical activity practiced in daily life?". It also touches on the second research question that asks "What meanings do these women attach to their physical activity practices in the context of their lifestyle?", and in particular questions about the physical context in the first research question that asks "What is the physical, social and cultural context in which physical activity is experienced by low-income single mothers?". . The requirements of daily life in the context of being a low-income single mother makes it necessary for the 'choice' or pleasure part of lifestyle be subjugated to the 'chance' or duty. None of the three women in this study planned to have their children, and in fact it is the chance of their various backgrounds combined with motherhood that contributes to their current situation and social position. However, as for every individual, they make choices about how to live in this context, choices that influence their practice of physical activity in daily life. The most important choices are made everyday in the fulfillment of household and childcare chores, but are limited by the economic resources at their disposal, as well as by the social norms that prescribe their role as 'good' mothers. These pressures are generally felt as responsibilities or duties that often act to constrain physical activity for these women in the area of recreation and leisure. A s they describe during the interviews, they neither have the equipment or time to engage in structured activities, nor do they feel entitled to ask for support so that they might be able to engage in personal leisure activities such as swimming or aerobics. 189 However in some respects, their responsibilities as mothers increase the amount of physical activity that they do in daily life. For example, because they lack the resources to operate a car they must walk to transport their children to and from school or childcare. They often walk to more distant grocery stores to get 'better' or cheaper food, and they work hard to clean, furnish and make their home comfortable for their family. The women in this study also spend 'active' time in the park so that their children can enjoy burning off their excess energy in a way that is healthy and positive for both mother and child. In fact, for two of the research participants, their daily lives became more active when they had children, in direct contrast to the literature that contends low-income women are the most inactive segment of the population. For single mothers anyway, this may not be accurate. On the surface it appears that being more active in daily life has the potential to be a positive and life-enhancing practice and perhaps the foundation for a more active leisure lifestyle. However, the effort and energy required to meet these responsibilities precludes the expenditure of more energy in the pursuit of active personal leisure. The struggle of exercise feels like the struggle of daily life, and the struggle of daily life makes it difficult to imagine that activity done in this context could be life-enhancing: So while it appears that the women in this study have intellectually accepted the idea that exercise is good for them, and in some cases have experienced this, the practice of physical activity in daily life is generally experienced in a negative way and does not appear to be beneficial. Not only do the women in this study contest the benefit of physical activity in daily life in many ways from a personal perspective, they also recognize how the work they do as unpaid care givers and domestics on social assistance is not socially valued. Consequently the physical activity that is a necessary part of these chores does not contribute to their cultural capital the 190 way a structured leisure activity like aerobics could, and may actually be considered to be a threat to their social power. This has important implications for government policies that promote 'active l iv ing ' ( to be discussed further at the end of this chapter). Finally, walking is one of the most important physical activity practices performed by the research participants because it seems to bridge the divide between work and leisure. It is performed as a necessary chore, but it is also often experienced as an opportunity for stress release, personal time for thinking and doing something healthy for the body, and temporary freedom from boredom or the constraints of life. I would argue that this bridging is possible because of the location of physical activity outside of the home. A s a space, the home is closed and contained, reinforcing the social limits of movement these low-income women experience. The home also contains constant reminders about what chores heed to be done and it can be a socially isolating environment. In contrast, walking takes the woman out of the home during which time she can experience a brief respite from the never-ending cycle of chores as she travels to her destination, especially i f she does not have to bring her child or children. Through walking she can feel connected to nature, to the community around her, and to her body. However, this is not to say that physical activity located or performed outside the home is always a positive practice. The women who live at Cedar Court must walk in a community that requires a certain amount of vigilance and 'big city' skills. In order to protect their personal safety and that of their children they must constantly be aware of who is around them and modify their route accordingly. Before setting out they must consider where they are going, what time Of day they w i l l be out, what kind of clothes are appropriate, and even the manner in which they should walk. In some ways this is no different than it is for many other women in our society, although it does influence the quality of their physical activity and the experience of their body. 191 Well-being and Health (personal) The negative dimensions of physical activity in daily life are in part due to the lack of social status these practices are afforded, and are a result of the energy and effort the responsibilities of single-motherhood require at the individual level. It is clear that the women in this study experience this struggle of daily life at the level of the body. It is through their bodies that, in many ways, they challenge social norms by rejecting the superficial and redefining an appropriate body image to one that is 'healthy' and individual. However, it is the social norm of individualism that puts the responsibility for a 'problematic' body back on the individual by implying that it is the result of a lack of self-control. In this way a body that does not achieve the social norm of sexualized femininity reflects a lack of self-control and is threatened with social isolation. For the women in this study this creates a great deal of pressure to conform as well as an opportunity to resist, a tension that can be observed in two contrasting practices of self-control. The first is the prevalence of disordered eating among these women, and the second is the attempt to connect the mind and body through affirmations and positive self-talk during physical activity in daily life. The experience of disordered eating is depressingly familiar to many women in our society. Somehow by eating less women are supposed to be able to have more — the right body, the right man, and perfect happiness — and i f this is not achieved it is because it is not deserved, resulting in a lowering of self-esteem. Among the research participants there are examples of anorexia, binge eating, not eating at regular intervals or forgetting to eat, and not eating a nutritionally balanced diet. In some cases this is the result of the stress and demands of their situation as low-income single mothers and care-givers, but often it is an attempt at control in 192 their lives, ultimately resulting in less energy, poor health and confirming their inability for self-control. In contrast, positive self-affirming talk and working to establish a positive outlook on life are strategies that have been used by all three of the research participants to varying degrees of success in an attempt to take control of their situations. While this "psychological" strategy reinforces individual responsibility by disciplining the mind, it allows the women to resist the social pressure to be dissatisfied with their bodies and their lives. B y emphasizing the connection of mind and body, as well as valuing holistic well-being and health, the women are able to articulate a sense of self that is in some ways independent of the social norms for femininity. Physical activity is implicated in this pattern of conformity and resistance through the mind/body connection. Denying the body by splitting the connection of mind and body is part of how the women in this study fulfill their responsibilities as mothers, as well as how they exercise self-control. However, it is when they recognize that conforming to social norms of beauty and self-control are not benefiting them physically or emotionally that they turn to an alternative view of a healthful body that is linked in mind and body. For Morgan, this means finding a balance between living a physically active life in nature and an intellectual life in studies and work. For Christina, it is finding the balance between being a caregiver to her son and taking care of herself physically and emotionally. In this way Morgan and Christina reflect what has been described as the middle-class attitude of 'balance' in achieving health and well-being, of which physical activity is a part. Interestingly, Rachel does not articulate a strategy of balance to cope with normative social pressures, but instead talks about re-creating her life through her plans to move to the suburbs and get back into the workforce. While it is not clear whether this difference in 193 perspective is due to individual differences, I would argue that the difference in cultural capital between Rachel and the other two women suggests that she has a very different sense of her body and her position with respect to social power and control. Therefore for Rachel, adopting a more physically active lifestyle in order to achieve balance of mind and body would not be a part of resistant behaviour. It is more likely that her refusal to be more active or quit smoking is a form of resistance in itself. For each of the women however, the connection between the physical and the emotional, between mind and body, is centred in the personal and the private. For example, Morgan speaks of giving up health (in the form of regular exercise) in order to have well-being (in the form of personal time to relax), as i f it is actually a choice that she has made rather than a necessity for coping with her lack of personal and social control in daily life. What seems to distinguish positive and negative physical activity is the thoughtfulness with which it is performed, rather than whether it provides a positive and healthy link between the environment, well-being, and personal sense of self. Because the women in this study do not explicitly associate well-being and health with social and economic structures, physical activity as a health behaviour is not problematic beyond the level of the individual. From this perspective, physical activity requires an individual ability to link the mind and the body, rather thari requiring social change and the elimination of social inequity. This sense of individualism is not sufficient for understanding how walking up and down stairs to do laundry can be experienced as a constraint for well-being, while climbing a hill-to pick mushrooms can be personally empowering. The context of physical activity is implicated in its contribution to health and well-being, through the interaction of the body, social structures and the physical world. In this way the analytic concept of well-being and health contributes to 194 both the first and second research questions that investigate the physical, social and cultural context, as well as the meaning attached to physical activity practices in the context of lifestyle. Quality of Life (social) A n important theme in the lives of the research participants is related to life purpose and social identity. This identity is actively negotiated each day through the use of cultural, economic and gender capital. While this struggle has changed for these women over time and through the life stages, the predominant influence on their current quality of life is motherhood. It has impacted their ability to engage in paid employment and therefore accumulate economic capital, it has challenged their sense of self and social identity, and it has changed their concept of the future. A n d in spite of the limited resources the women in this study have available to them, their experience of motherhood is in many ways similar to every mother, regardless of economic and cultural capital and has implications for social class as an analytic category. The experience of giving birth changes the body and psyche of each woman, and especially when they are young, children require constant attention. The challenge of coping with the demands of children, making time for themselves, and trying to establish a routine for the family may be in some sense common to our culture regardless of social class. However, this shared experience of motherhood that emerges from the data may be a result of the influence cultural capital has in this context. While all o f the research participants have very limited economic capital due to their lack of paid employment and dependence on social assistance, two of the three women have a certain amount of cultural capital in common with women located in the middle-class. Both Morgan and Christina have some post-secondary education, have worked at a variety of jobs, and were brought up in typically middle-class homes 195 that contrast quite significantly from the position considered low-income, however, for the purpose of analysis they are grouped together in the lower-class or working-class. This is clearly inadequate for understanding physical activity in daily life due to the obvious differences in conceptions of the body, social identity and life purpose that can be observed between Morgan and Christina and Rachel. I would argue that single-motherhood creates a significant movement between classes defined economically^ but that internalized social norms and values are not so easily shifted. Contrasting internalized norms and values for physical activity can be observed in the ways planning and organizing are related to conceptions of the future in terms of values and goals. A t the immediate level, the women who participated in this study share the struggle to plan and develop routines as a method of coping with the challenges faced in daily life and achieving well-being for themselves and their children. However planning strategies contrast significantly when they are considered from the perspective of longer-term change and the achievement of life goals. It is in this context that the influence of cultural capital on sense of self and life-purpose can be perceived. For Christina and Morgan, life goals are often (although not exclusively) based in the desire to "do" something, making it easy for them to articulate the importance of physical activity for the accomplishment of their goals. In comparison, Rachel speaks o f her life goals uneasily and usually in terms of "being" or "having" such as when she describes her desire to live simply in suburbia. She does not implicate physical activity in the success or failure of her goals and therefore does not relate it to life-goals or quality of life. It appears that in spite of the shared lack of economic capital and the implications this has for the achievement of life goals, the women who see the potential of their lives from a middle-class perspective are much more likely to perceive physical activity as an important contributor to their 196 goals and dreams. This has important implications for understanding the perception of benefits for physical activity in the context of daily life. Finally, "place" has important implications for the relationship between physical activity and quality of life. M u c h of the literature about the lived body and poverty speaks of the social isolation that is experienced, especially by single mothers. However, the women in this study often differentiate between the social norms which exist "outside" of their housing project and those they experience "inside". It appears that l iving in a relatively safe and stable physical and social environment with other women who struggle with similar issues of poverty and single motherhood, has a significant impact on feelings of social ^ connection and how social norms are experienced. The women in this study seem to have a certain sense of stability and belonging which makes it possible for their.daily life choices to support their sense of life-purpose. This is not to suggest that they choose to be more active, but it does ensure that they have the choice. A n d although this social support is often in the form of personal friendship, they are not more likely to be physically active with their friends. However, this general social acceptance does seem to increase the likelihood that the women w i l l make time for themselves and self-care practices, that may include physical activity. It is interesting to note that during the interviews the women who participated in this research did not make an explicit connection between the "outside" community and the experience of physical activity. This may be because physical activity performed in the context of chores, such as transportation and grocery shopping, is a necessary task and not done in a "thoughtful" way to enhance health or well-being. However, I would argue that as the women become more aware of the potential for daily physical activity to benefit their health and wel l -being, they w i l l also be more conscious of the influence the community may have on this 197 experience. This has significant implications for a health promotion strategy designed to support physical activity that is already performed as a part of daily life. It may be that a greater awareness of the benefits of physical activity for health is counteracted by a growing awareness of the negative influence of a potentially unsafe neighbourhood. It remains to be seen whether or not this would enhance well-being and quality of life, or i f it would reinforce inactivity as a reasonable choice in the context of daily life. A s an analytic concept then, quality of life speaks most directly to the meanings attached to physical activity practices in the social and cultural context. In this way it primarily addresses the first research question related to the context of physical activity, and answers the second research question related to lifestyle in a more indirect way. Power and Control (public and private) Control is implicated in the relationship between physical activity and daily life for these low-income single mothers as it is based on access to resources and ultimately social power. A s an analytic concept, power and control is also implicated in each of the research questions as it is embedded in the meaning, practice and context of physical activity in daily life. Issues of power and control are developed here and then explored in relation to the research questions in more detail in the following section. The concept of power as it is understood here is one that is actively negotiated by the individual through resources such as economic, cultural and gender capital. For example, although the women in this study are dependent on social assistance and have little or no control over their income, their position of stable and affordable housing in combination with a social network that provides an alternative source of material goods allows them considerably more 198 control than is typical for other single mothers on welfare. They are in a position to negotiate their patterns of consumption to a certain extent, which may explain why they report that financial resources are not a significant limitation to their lifestyle, a perception that carries over to their attitudes about access to physical activity. They seem to know that they can be more physically active but choose not to, perhaps as an act of social resistance to this very lack of economic power that defines their struggle to cope with the demands of daily life. This negotiation of power in the social and public realm is often made manifest by the women in this study as private choices and contradictory practices such as those that strive to control appearance using food, those that attempt to unify the mind and body, and those that struggle to reconcile plans for daily life with the achievement of life-goals. Nowhere is the negotiation for personal control and social power more evident than in their talk about planning to cope with change, or trying to create change. On the one hand, it could be argued that their personal sense of control, readiness for change and an ability to make change happen is what allowed them to participate in this research project. This sense of empowerment may also contribute to the likelihood that they w i l l perceive physical activity as a priority, and have the skills to increase their level of participation. On the other hand, it could be argued that the public (and therefore political) lack of choice in their lives is grounded in a lack of control and therefore limits their empowerment. In this case, change may be forced by a lack of resources, causing the women in this study to plan for change in the areas they feel they have control over. The split between the public and private is further emphasized by the acceptance that control, or lack of control is an individual matter. A s a result, the women in this study seem to experience success in planning and making change as an enhancement of their self-esteem and confidence, and failure as further proof that they deserve to be where they are. They do not 199 appear to perceive change as a function of what life-goals are culturally or structurally available to them, or how l iving in the housing project (beyond the social relationships they have established) may enhance or constrain their ability to make change in their lives. In many respects, physical activity in daily life can be understood as a personal matter and function of self-control and personal control through choice, rather than as a social matter and function of social power through available resources or capital. However there are forces related to power and control at work in the lives of the low-income single mothers who participated in this study that suggest they have started to link their perceptions of public and private. The first is a heightened awareness demonstrated by the recognition that the work they do as single mothers on social assistance is not valued and that the social norms o f feminine beauty are unrealistic and potentially damaging. The second is motherhood itself that they realize has limited their access to economic resources but links them to the larger social world by providing meaning and structure for their lives. A n d finally, simply the experience of aging seems to provide the link between the personal and the social. This seems to suggest that it is not accidental that it was the older single mothers at Cedar Court who agreed to participate in this research. A n d I would argue that this linkage between private and the public has the potential to move physical activity in daily life from the realm of self-control to that of social power. B y recognizing that physical activity can challenge the normative presentation of the sexualized body, can contribute to long-term goals, and can be practiced in a way that contributes to self-esteem, the potential for personal empowerment may be perceived and possibly achieved. 200 Discussion of the Research Questions Considering the first research question that asks "What is the physical, social and cultural context in which physical activity is experienced by low-income single mothers?" I would argue that the answer has been clearly articulated in the analysis by linking the theoretical perspectives of lifestyle, place and power with interview data collected from three low-income single mothers, in addition to personal observations and an assessment of the community. I would also suggest that the primary factor limiting the generalizability of these findings to a broader group of low-income single mothers is not so much related to small number of research participants, but rather to their age, social-class backgrounds, ethnicity, and the unique nature of their location in a housing project. It would be very interesting to repeat this study with three similar women in the same community but who are living on their own. With respect to the research question that asks "What meanings do these women attach to their physical activity practices in the context of their lifestyle?" the interviews and the resulting analysis are able to distinguish quite clearly between work and home responsibilities, leisure and recreation activities, and health and self-care practices. There did not seem to be any confusion on the part of the research participants regarding the presence of physical activity in each of these contexts. Specific meanings related to work and leisure, well-being and health, quality of life, and power and control clearly emerged. The research question that is most difficult to answer is related to the one that asks "How is physical activity practiced in daily life?". The purpose of this question was to go beyond the theoretical constraint of lifestyle to investigate i f any other contexts and/or meanings may be relevant to understanding physical activity in daily life. Unfortunately this question was limited by the inadequacy of the research methods, not because it is an unimportant question. 201 In an attempt to anticipate the difficulty of investigating the private practice of physical activity, I developed an additional research question during the thesis proposal stage. This question about research methods asks "What is an appropriate and effective way to study physical activity in the daily lives of low-income, single mothers?" and was addressed by developing the physical activity log to be used in combination with a day long participant observation as new research tools to get at the private experience of physical activity in daily life. The use of these two data collection techniques has some important implications for future research and is summarized with other research method concerns in Chapter 3. Returning to the question of the practice of physical activity in daily life, applying these and possibly additional research methods that are more sensitive to private bodily practices to a similar study with three low-income single mothers living outside of a housing project could provide a useful comparison and perhaps identify practices that have not yet been considered in the context of physical activity in daily life. Implications of the Research First, the contributions of this study are presented with a view to the most relevant bodies of literature and the most promising directions for future research. The second part of this section considers policy and program implications that result from this analysis. Contributions and Suggestions for Future Research The exploratory nature of this research and the diversity of the literatures that inform it makes it reasonable to note only the primary contributions this study may make to each group of literature. However it should be noted that the contributions and suggestions for future research 202 in one group may be, and very likely are, appropriate for the other sections as well due to the common theoretical foundations. Lifestyle and leisure. With respect to the practice of physical activity as a lifestyle behaviour, the finding in this study that low-income single mothers may actually be more active after they become mothers than they were before suggests that the assumption that low-income women, and mothers in particular, are the least active segment of the population needs to be revisited. The methods used in this study highlight some potentially interesting strategies for investigating physical activity in daily life, but unfortunately methodology alone w i l l not be able to resolve the issue of how to compare physical activity in this context with the traditional understanding of activity in organized recreation and leisure settings. This requires the development of a theoretical linkage, possibly based on the organizing framework of lifestyle, place and power developed in this study. The importance of context for physical activity is a second important contribution of this study. While the context of daily life clearly overlaps with lifestyle, leisure and recreation, this research demonstrates that the meaning of physical activity can vary depending on context and over time as the meaning is negotiated at the level of the individual. This suggests that the meaning of physical activity, regardless of context, may not be as stable as some of the class-defined concepts of leisure in the literature describe. The potential for physical activity to be both positive and negative, as both conforming to and resisting social norms, needs to be considered more closely. A n d finally, because this study implicates physical activity via the body in the negotiation of social power, physical activity has the potential to support and constrain well-being in the • " 203 broadest sense, beyond that of mere physical health. A theoretical lens constructed of lifestyle, place and various conceptions of power has the potential to understand physical activity in a truly ecological sense and link a diversity of literatures for the well-being of the individual and society. Health promotion. Building on the concept of well-being, much of the health promotion literature is aimed at moving beyond disease prevention to the enhancement of quality of life by supporting holistic health. While physical activity has long been assumed to be an important contributor to well-being and quality of life, the results of this study suggest that it may also detract from well-being in certain contexts and at certain points in life. Part of this negative experience of physical activity in daily life has been shown here to be related to the way it can further separate the divide between mind and body, a fact of existence in our society and especially for low-income single mothers. This suggests that promoting physical activity for the attainment of positive health and well-being needs to be re-evaluated for each specific context. A great deal of health promotion literature also focuses on increasing participation in physical activity through the development of behaviour change strategies. The primary assumption of this literature that uses education as the core strategy, is that i f people understand that increased levels of activity would improve their health then they w i l l increase their participation accordingly. However this study suggests that at least among the low-income single mothers who participated in this research, the message that physical activity supports positive health has been received and generally understood. It is not that the research participants want poor health, but the data seem to suggest that unless the individual has a clear 204 sense of life-purpose it is very difficult to plan and achieve longer-term goals. While this study tentatively examined the relationship between physical activity and personal goals, the findings have obvious implications for future research on. the relationship between life-purpose, physical activity, and other health behaviours. Sociology of the body. For lack of a better term, the diverse groups of literature and theory that deal with a social understanding of the body are considered here as a general sociology of the body. I would argue that the most important implication of this research for the sociological body centres around the notion of the active creation of power by the individual in the social context. If the individual is considered as an active participant in the creation of power, mediated by economic, cultural and gender capital as this research supports, then personal choice to be active or not is part of this process at some level and has the potential to support or constrain personal empowerment. Based on this connection between physical activity and empowerment, it would be interesting to investigate the relationship between traditional behaviour change strategies related^to increasing participation in physical activity and a conception of power understood from a sociological perspective.-1 would argue that the reason behaviour change strategies are not more effective in the long term is that they do not support the individual ability to enhance social power. Implications for Policy and Programs I believe the potential for this research to influence policy and programs is based on the way it addresses the stereotype of the low-income single mother and challenges a number of common prejudices. The women who participated in this study are not lazy and uncaring 205 mothers who are taking advantage of the social system for their own benefit. They are women who work hard to provide for their children, often to the detriment of their own health and well-being. Contrary to what the literature suggests, this research demonstrates that low-income single mothers are active in the context of daily life, that they are not powerless but actively plan and work towards the enhancement of quality of life for themselves and their families, and that they recognize physical activity has the potential to limit as well as enhance health and well-being. Debunking the myths of poverty and single-motherhood is an important starting point for developing physical activity programs and policies that support health and well-being. One of the few Canadian social policies that has been designed to impact physical activity in daily life is the Active Living strategy first outlined by Health Canada in 1986 (Health & Welfare Canada, 1986). The objective of this approach is to encourage and support personal , choices to live actively in daily life to enhance personal health and well-being. While on the surface this looks like a radical departure from the traditional approach to health promotion that tends to be prescriptive, I would argue that it is not. Active Living still assumes that health is a personal trouble that requires a personal choice to change behaviour, that the main constraint to an active lifestyle is unequal access to an active environment, and that this strategy w i l l be cost-effective from a health risk/benefit perspective as it w i l l increase the level of physical activity among the least active segments of the population. The active l iving concept has been promoted through educational social marketing strategies that include prescriptive messages such as "take the stairs instead of the elevator". While this policy and program strategy may be effective at a certain level, it does not address issues of power and control implicated by this research for physical activity in daily life. For the low-income single mothers in this study, l iving is already active and simply doing more 206 wi l l not empower, bridge the mind/body gap or connect them with a larger life-purpose. What may be needed is an approach to health promotion that emphasizes the development of the whole person rather than one component or behaviour. This is where the health promotion strategy described in a recent paper by Kimiec ik and Lawson (1996) shows considerable potential. A s described in Chapter 2, the traditional health promotion approach is based on the "human capital model" that assumes people pursue a rational regulated life and require professional direction on appropriate health and lifestyle activities. However, an alternative "human development-potential model" begins with an assumption that the individual has strengths, dreams and aspirations. This alternative model would allow policy and program development to consider strategies that are appropriate in an ecological context, that could build on personal strengths and already existing socio-cultural capital, and help link physical activity with personal dreams and possibly personal empowerment. A t first glance, actively supporting empowerment appears to be a huge responsibility for such a seemingly insignificant practice as physical activity in daily life. However it is the potential for it to contribute to collaborative development that makes it important to consider. It is not clear what this collaboration should look like — it could be a reworking of the "community animator" concept that was experimented with by ParticipAction, the social marketing arm of Health Canada that promotes physical activity, or it could link in with the work public health nurses are already doing to support their role in public health collaboration and building on community competencies. Whatever the strategy may be, physical activity in daily life should not be overlooked for its potential to support personal well-being in the broadest sense. 207 Full Circle Returning to Rachel, Christina, and Morgan, the low-income single mothers who made this research possible, and my own feeling as a physical activity professional that I was not supporting the well-being of the low-income women in my programs, it is clear that we have to reconsider what we have to offer these women in support of their health and well-being. A s Ingham (1985) suggests in the opening quotation, doing aerobics w i l l not make the problems of lifestyle, unemployment and poverty go away. A n d as this research project implies for the women in this study, increasing physical activity in daily life may mean doing more of the tiring and socially unvalued chores associated with being a low-income single mother. This begs the question, 'Why should low-income single mothers increase the amount of this potentially unhealthy physical activity that they already perform in daily life?' , and forces me to question my personal belief in the benefit o f physical activity for well-being and quality of life. While I still have confidence that regular physical activity is beneficial for health and well-being, the results o f this study confirmed my worry that physical activity has not been experienced as a positive or healthful factor in the daily lives of low-income single mothers. However, based on this research there are several strategies that show promise and that w i l l influence my professional practice in the future. Within a fitness and recreation program setting, I believe that i f I make room for participants to define their own reasons for being there, provide as many choices or options as I can with respect to type, location and time o f the program, and look for opportunities to value differences between people, then I can support the potential for human development and empowerment in the long term. More specific strategies within this context could include 208 making explicit linkages between the mind and the body, and looking for ways to connect the activity to issues of personal meaning and positive self-esteem. Most importantly, however, I believe that i f I want to support the health and well-being of low-income and other socially marginalized women I need to try and reach them outside of the program setting. The purpose of connecting with them in the community is not to motivate them to attend a program, but is to reach them in the context of daily life and value the physical activity they are already doing. A successful strategy to reach marginalized women would most likely rely on linking with the social networks they already have in their lives such as through the programs and schools for their children, social services they access in their community, and leisure activities that they may be involved in for enjoyment. I would argue that through these networks, the health and well-being of women who are disadvantaged could be enhanced by encouraging them to consider the link between mind and body, the link between well-being and life-purpose, and by supporting them to be active on their own terms. 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Please print name Date Page 2 o f2 219 APPENDIX B - Discussion Group Sample Questions DISCUSSION GROUP QUESTIONS Five open ended questions for the guided interview discussion group: 1) What does 'physical activity' mean to you? 2) What kinds of things do you do that you would consider physically active? Do you do them monthly, weekly, daily? 3) What does it mean to be'healthy'? H o w do you know when you are healthy? 4) What does it mean to have'well-being'? Is well-being different than health? 5) Is your health and/or well-being related to your physical activity? In what ways? I have read the attached letter with this consent form and have retained a copy for my own records. I understand what is required of participants in the study entitled The Exercise of Daily Life: Towards an understanding of physical activity in the daily lives-of low-income single mothers. I CONSENT to having my voice tape recorded during the interviews. I DO NOT consent to having my voice tape recorded. Signature: Signature: Please print name Date Page 2 o f2 222 APPENDIX D - Interview #1 Sample Questions INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Questions for the semi-structured in-depth interviews: Interview #1 1) Remembering the focus group from a couple of weeks ago, how do you feel about the way 'physical activity' was described? A n d 'health'? A n d 'well-being'? 2) Thinking about a typical day for you, what kinds o f things do you do that you would consider to be physically active? Do you do them at home? A t work? Somewhere else? A s part of those things you feel you are responsible to do? A s part of your social life? To relax? Just for yourself? 3) O f the daily activities which you have mentioned, I would like to talk with you in more detail about the ones which you do because you feel you have to — What are the most important activities and why do you feel you must do them? Would you still do them i f you didn't have to? Why or why not? What would make it easier for you to do them? 4) O f the daily activities which you have mentioned, I would like to talk with you in more detail about the ones you do because you enjoy them — What are the most important activities? Why do you enjoy them? Can you describe how they are positive for you or benefit you? Would anything cause you to stop doing them? 5) Are there any physically active things you would like to do regularly but either don't do, or not very often? What are they? Why do you feel this way? What would have to be different so that you would do them more often? 6) I have some background questions I would like to ask you before we finish: Name and age Highest level of education achieved Above or below the poverty line Usual source(s) of income Children (age, sex) Marital/ partnership status Tenancy at the housing project Visible minority status (self and children) 3 most important health problems 3 most important health worries 223 APPENDIX E - Physical Activity Log Samples (written and recorded) PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LOG (written) After choosing a weekday (Monday to Friday) that you expect will be quite typical, please use the chart below make a record of the various types and times of physical activity that you performed throughout the entire day. a good idea to keep this log with you so that you can write periodically throughout the day and make it easier t. remember. Date: Activity Time W h a t were you thinking about or feeling? Example) Up and down the stairs 5 times to do 2 loads of laundry 9:30 to 11:00am Worried that I wouldn't have enough time to get to the post-office before Sue came home for lunch. Example) Went next door for coffee and a visit with Sherry Mid-morning for about an hour Enjoyed the break. 224 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LOG (recorded) After choosing a weekday (Monday to Friday) that you expect will be quite typical, please use the personal tape recorder to make a record of the various types and times of physical activity that you performed throughout the entire day. Please remember to note the following: • day, date and time at the beginning of the tape • general description of each activity including where, when, and how long • comments about what you were thinking about or feeling at the time (see example below) It is a good idea to keep this tape recorder with you so that you can speak into it periodically throughout the day and make it easier to remember. Activity Time What were vou thinking about or feeling? Example) Up and down the stairs 5 times to do 2 loads of laundry 9:30 to 11:00am Worried that I wouldn't have enough time to get to the post-office before Sue came home for lunch. Example) Went next door for coffee and a Mid-morning Enjoyed the break. visit with Sherry for about an hour. Tape Recorder The tape recorder is set up and ready to go. Extra batteries and an extra 60 minute tape (30 minutes each side) have been included. Just in case the settings accidentally get changed, they should be reset as follows: OFF (not PAUSE or VAS/Fast Play) 2.4 (notl .2 for Tape Speed) Red button (down for recording) 225 APPENDIX F - Interview #2 Sample Questions INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Questions for the semi-structured in-depth interviews: Interview #2 1) This is what I understood about physical activity in your daily life after our first interview (describe here). After reading the transcript and remembering our conversation, is my interpretation of what you told me accurate? Is there anything you would like to add? 2) Review the physical activity log with the participant explaining what she did, when and how long she did it, and what she was feeling while she did it. 3) Looking at this map o f your neighbourhood, please indicate the places that you go on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. 4) Are there active things that you feel you should do every day but don't? What are they? Why do you feel this way? What would have to be different so that you would do them? 5) How much is your current participation in physical activity similar to, or different from, when you were a child? A n d before you were a mom? Why? 6) How important is it that you live here at the housing project with respect to the amount of physical activity that you do? Why? Is the neighbourhood important? Why or why not? Is the amount o f money you have important? Why or why not? Is being a single parent important? Why or why not? 7) Why do you think you were interested in participating in this study while the others that were at the first meeting were not? 8) What are your 3 most important dreams or goals for yourself and your life? Does physical activity contribute to them in any way? 226 APPENDIX G - Participant Observation Cues These cues were assessed subjectively by the researcher through observations and conversations with the research participant During the observations the researcher was active in a 'helping' way, but passive with regard to questions guiding the conversation and suggestions. Observations in addition to these cues were made in the research journal. Physical space of the home Size of the home Layout inside Lighting inside Windows Furniture Noise Yard size Outside structures Surrounding buildings Traffic and roads/walkways Subject Body size: Fitness: Ability: Health: Physical movement patterns: Body language: Eye contact: Communication skills: Use of language: Interaction with children and other adults: Planning and organization Planned activities (short and long term) Spontaneous activities Resources available and used Decision making 227 


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