What Stops Young Immigrants From Being Physically Active?

sharma-obesity-varsity-sportsAs a “not-so-young” immigrant myself, this is a topic that certainly caught my intention.

I can think of a lot of reasons why someone moving to a place like Canada (especially if you moved from somewhere warmer) would be less active but is this really true?

Sadly, it is, as nicely demonstrated in a paper by CON Bootcamper Atif Kukaswadia and colleagues from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, just published in PLOS one.

The researchers looked at Cycle 6 (2009–2010) of the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study and the 2006 Canada Census of Population, which included over 23,000 kids from grades 6–10 in over 400 schools.

It turns out that kids born outside of Canada were about 25% less likely to be active than peers born in Canada.

On a more positive note, however, physical activity levels did tend to increase the longer the kids reported living in Canada.

Nonetheless, South and East Asian youth were significantly less active, regardless of time since immigration.

Although Kukaswadia and colleagues, in time honoured researcher mode, conclude by noting that “more research is needed” to determine the mechanisms by which these differences occur and to identify barriers to physical activity participation among immigrant youth, they do offer a few speculations:

1) being involved in different forms of physical activity.
2) cultural differences in what constitutes physical activity.
3) ethnic differences in extracurricular activity involvement.

I would certainly add that one of the key cultural determinants may well be the stronger emphasis that East and South Asian parents generally place on academic versus athletic performance – the latter being often looked at as a hobby or past-time rather than an essential part of growing up.

I am sure my readers may have other ideas as to the reasons for this observation.

Edmonton, AB

Kukaswadia A, Pickett W, Janssen I (2014) Time Since Immigration and Ethnicity as Predictors of Physical Activity among Canadian Youth: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89509. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089509