Physical activity in a culturally and linguistically diverse population of South Asian women

Aisha Siddiqui, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Obesity is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the US and it is alarming because it is linked to many serious diseases including diabetes and heart disease. South Asians have a disproportionately higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Evidence suggests a strong association between physical inactivity and the absolute risk of heart disease and diabetes. After controlling for age and socioeconomic status, female immigrants were found to be less likely to engage in any leisure time physical activities and more likely to have a high BMI. There is a serious concern that South Asians engage in less leisure time physical activity. Very little is known about South Asian women's appreciation of physical activity and how it is related to their acculturation. The purpose of this study was to collect exploratory data on the levels of physical activity and acculturation among South Asian women. A cross-sectional mixed methods study was conducted using qualitative focus groups and quantitative survey for methodological triangulation. The study sampled South Asian women of Bangladeshi, Indian, or Pakistani descent, at least 18 years old, living in the Houston metropolitan area. The results from both the qualitative and the quantitative data suggested that physical activity was low among South Asian women. The qualitative data showed that the sampled population generally had no or inconsequential issues with the sociocultural adaptations and they learned the benefits of physical activity while living in the United States but their psychological adaptation was hampered mainly by their religious and cultural beliefs. The main reasons for insufficient physical activity were lack of time or energy and modest dressing requirements. More than half of the study participants were interested in physical activity programs specifically designed for South Asian women and most of them used social media but they were not interested in an online physical activity program. The conclusion of this study was that language is not a major limiting factor in the acculturation of South Asian women and is not a good measure of their acculturation. A blatant difference in their lifestyles is deep rooted in religious and cultural beliefs and more research in this area will help greatly.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Womens studies|Public health|South Asian Studies

Recommended Citation

Siddiqui, Aisha, "Physical activity in a culturally and linguistically diverse population of South Asian women" (2013). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3597062.