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What do we know about physical activity among Indigenous people?

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Physical activity is important for maintaining good health [1]. Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend moderate physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week to improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease and other conditions [2]. Not doing enough physical activity, and leading a sedentary lifestyle, are risk factors for a variety of health conditions including CVD, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, depression and other social and emotional wellbeing conditions, overweight and obesity, a weakened musculoskeletal system and osteoporosis [1][2].

In the 2012-2013 AATSIHS, 46% of Indigenous people aged 18 years and over living in non-remote areas reported that they had done enough moderate intensity physical activity to meet the target of 30 minutes per day (or a total of 150 minutes per week); this level was 0.9 times that of non-Indigenous people of the same age [3]. Two-fifths (40%) of Indigenous adults had exercised for at least 150 minutes over five sessions in the previous week; this level was 0.9 times that of non-Indigenous adults. Over 28% of Indigenous adults had exercised at a moderate level and 10% at a high level; these levels of physical activity were 0.9 and 0.6 times that of non-Indigenous adults. Indigenous adults spent around 39 minutes per day including 21 minutes on walking for transport compared with children aged 5-17 years [1]. The participants in a pedometer study recorded an average of 6,963 steps per day; 17% met the recommended 10,000 steps or more a day.

Among Indigenous adults living in non-remote areas, more males (50%) than females (41%) met the target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week and had exercised for at least 150 minutes over five sessions in the previous week (44% compared with 36%) [3]. Indigenous males (31%) were more likely than Indigenous females (25%) to have exercised at moderate intensity and were twice as likely to have exercised at high intensity (14% compared with 7%) in the previous week. In remote areas, Indigenous adults exceeded the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity (55%) and 21% did not participate in any physical activity on the day prior to the interview [1]. The most common type of physical activity for adults was 'walking to places' (71%). One-in-ten (11%) participated in cultural activities, including hunting and gathering bush foods or going fishing.

Among Indigenous adults living in non-remote areas, 62% reported that they were physically inactive (sedentary or had done little exercise) in the week prior to the survey; this level of physical inactivity was 1.1 times more than their non-Indigenous counterparts [2]. A higher proportion of Indigenous women (68%) than Indigenous men (55%) were physically inactive; this was evident for all age-groups [3]. Indigenous adults spent an average of 5.3 hours per day on sedentary activities, including 2.3 hours of watching television, DVDs and videos [1].

Indigenous children aged 2-4 years living in non-remote areas spent an average of 6.6 hours per day doing physical activity and spent more time outdoors (3.5 hours) compared with non-Indigenous children of the same age who spent 2.8 hours outdoors. [1]. Indigenous children aged 2-4 years spent an average of 1.5 hours on sedentary screen-based activities such as watching TV, DVDs or playing electronic games.

Indigenous children aged 5-17 years living in non-remote areas spent an average of two hours per day participating in physical activity (exceeding the recommendation of one hour per day); this was 25 minutes more than non-Indigenous children of the same age [1]. Around half (48%) of Indigenous children met the recommended amount of physical activity, compared with 35% of non-Indigenous children. The most common physical activities among Indigenous children were 'active play and children's games' (57%) and swimming (18%). Those who participated in the pedometer study recorded an average of 9,593 steps per day, with an average of one-in-four children (25%) meeting the recommended 12,000 steps per day.

Indigenous children aged 5-17 years living in non-remote areas spent an average of 2.6 hours per day on sedentary screen-based activities (exceeding the recommended limit of two hours). Indigenous children aged 12-14 years spent half the time that non-Indigenous children spent using the internet or computer for homework (4 minutes compared with 8 minutes per day) and those aged 15-17 years spent nearly one third of the time spent by non-Indigenous children of the same age (8 minutes compared with 20 minutes per day). Indigenous children aged 15-17 years spent more time on screen-based activities than those aged 5-8 years (3.3 hours compared with 1.9 hours).

In remote areas, 82% of Indigenous children aged 5-17 years did more than 60 minutes of physical activity on the day prior to the interview [1]. The most common activities were walking (82%), running (53%), and playing football or soccer (33%).

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: physical activity, 2012–13. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Australia's physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines (2014) Australian Government Department of Health
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey: first results, Australia, 2012-13. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
 
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