Physical Activity in First Generation South Asian Women Living in Canada: Barriers and Facilitators to Participation

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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The aim of this study was to understand the physical activity (PA) experiences of South Asian women employees and their perceptions of new immigrant South Asian women in regards to barriers and facilitators to participation. This was examined using an interpretive description approach where similarities and differences between South Asian Women’s Centre employees and their perception of new South Asian immigrants were explored. Eight South Asian women employees (Mean age = 45.57 years) working at a South Asian Women’s Centre in Canada participated in this study. Five South Asian women employees participated in a focus group, three in an individual interview and one participant from the focus group took part in a follow-up interview to better understand their PA experiences. Barriers found included: family responsibilities, upbringing, feeling guilty, immediate living environment, clothing, cost, and location of activity. PA facilitators found included: help at home, cultural sports events, group support, female only programs, design of PA facilities, health and self-image benefits, providing PA for children at the same time as adults and collaborations. The main differences found between South Asian Women’s Centre employees and their clients concerned time, language and their partners. For this population of women, programs need to be affordable, close to home, female only and allow their own choice of clothing. The results suggest the importance for those working with South Asian women to take into consideration the many factors between the individual and the environment that may inhibit or facilitate PA behavior change in this population.

Rathanaswami is currently working with Volleyball Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Bengoechea is associated with the Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Bush is with the Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.

Address author correspondence to Kiruthika Rathanaswami at kiruthika. rathanaswami@mail.mcgill.ca. This manuscript is part of the first author’s master’s thesis requirement while undertaking her graduate work in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University under supervision of the second author.