Physical activity among South Asian women: a systematic, mixed-methods review

Whitney Babakus, Janice Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: The objective of this systematic mixed-methods review is to assess what is currently known about the levels of physical activity (PA) and sedentary time (ST) and to contextualize these behaviors among South Asian
women with an immigrant background.
Methods: A systematic search of the literature was conducted using combinations of the key words PA, ST, South Asian, and immigrant. A mixed-methods approach was used to analyze and synthesize all evidence, both
quantitative and qualitative. Twenty-six quantitative and twelve qualitative studies were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria.
Results: Studies quantifying PA and ST among South Asian women showed low levels of PA compared with South Asian men and with white European comparison populations. However making valid comparisons between studies
was challenging due to a lack of standardized PA measurement. The majority of studies indicated that South Asian women did not meet recommended amounts of PA for health benefits. Few studies assessed ST. Themes emerging
from qualitative studies included cultural and structural barriers to PA, faith and education as facilitators, and a lack of understanding of the recommended amounts of PA and its benefits among South Asian women.
Conclusions: Quantitative and qualitative evidence indicate that South Asian women do not perform the recommended level of PA for health benefits. Both types of studies suffer from limitations due to methods of data
collection. More research should be dedicated to standardizing objective PA measurement and to understanding how to utilize the resources of the individuals and communities to increase PA levels and overall health of South
Asian women.
Original languageEnglish
Article number150
Number of pages18
JournalThe International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2012


  • Health inequalities, Sedentary time, Self-reported physical activity


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