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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Exercise as medicine in Indigenous health

Date posted: 29 July 2013

Edith Cowan University PhD candidate, Tuguy Esgin, believes using exercise as a form of medicine could help Indigenous Australians avoid a range of chronic diseases. His aim is to see exercise used as a preventative measure as well as treating the symptoms once a chronic disease has developed.

Mr Esgin is investigating why Indigenous Australians have lower exercise participation rates, the barriers they face, and developing ways to overcome them. He has surveyed 120 Indigenous Australians in Perth's Nyoongar community seeking to understand if gym-based exercise could be a solution.

A key finding of his research indicated the preference to exercise in team sports such as football and netball. Individual forms of exercise such as going to the gym, swimming or jogging put Indigenous Australians off exercising because it is at odds with their focus on community.

'The peer reviewed literature suggests that some of the Indigenous communities in Australia believe that taking time out to exercise alone was seen as selfish and therefore they didn't make the effort,' Mr Esgin said. 'Other reasons, such as the expensive nature of gym membership, living in remote locations, or limited access to facilities have also emerged as significant barriers to exercise.'

Mr Esgin hopes that by working directly with Indigenous Australians he can develop a best practice model for exercise programs which have practical benefits for these communities. 'As a Nyoongar I've seen first-hand the health issues affecting those in urban, regional and remote communities, including heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all conditions which can be markedly improved through appropriate exercise,' Mr Esgin said.

Mr Esgin's survey results have already been used to develop new exercise intervention programs at leisure centres in several areas around Perth, including Belmont, Southlakes, and Wanneroo. He has also approached other districts around Perth to start up similar programs.

Source: Edith Cowan University


Last updated: 30 July 2013
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