A team of researchers from various universities across the United States (University of North Carolina, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health, University at Albany School of Public Health, Stanford University, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Houston, University of California San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center) recently studied the relationship between ethnicity, nativity status, and the likelihood of meeting national physical activity guidelines, finding that the type of physical activity considered may impact ability to meet guidelines. The resulting publication can be found in the January 2019 American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
National physical activity guidelines recommend partaking in 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Previous studies have shown that the Latinx population in the United States is less likely to meet these recommendations than whites; however, these studies have primarily focused on leisure-time physical activity. According to the University at Albany’s Dr. Elizabeth Vasquez, there are multiple types of physical activity that should be considered to create a better understanding of how Latinx individuals may meet these guidelines.
“Transportation physical activity – walking or bicycling as a means of transportation – and occupational physical activity such as carrying light loads, digging, and chores, must be examined among this population,” says Dr. Vasquez. “These activities may increase the ability to meet recommended activity guidelines, particularly for foreign-born Latinxs who may come to the United States for labor-intensive roles.”
The research team examined ethnicity and nativity in correlation with leisure-time physical activity, transportation physical activity, and occupational physical activity using a national sample of Latinxs and whites from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 2007 and 2012. Self-reported aspects of health and physical health behaviors were examined for the sample, which included both foreign-born and U.S.-born Latinxs.
The researchers found that Latinxs were much more likely to meet physical activity recommendations through transportation physical activity in comparison to non-Latinx whites. Vigorous occupational physical activity, such as heavy lifting and digging, generally accounted for a large portion of total physical activity in foreign-born Latinxs, in comparison to whites and U.S.-born Latinxs. The inclusion of occupational physical activity led to a 40-50 percent increase in the proportion of individuals that met the national physical activity guidelines.
These results suggest that physical activity policies and programs should be developed with nativity and ethnicity in mind to better help populations reach recommended physical activity guidelines. With the heavy influence of nativity and ethnicity on occupation, culture, and socioeconomic status, programs would benefit from a close examination of how these factors are connected to health and health behaviors.