Original Paper

Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 263-275

First online:

Perspectives on Physical Activity Among Immigrants and Refugees to a Small Urban Community in Minnesota

  • Mark L. WielandAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Mayo Clinic Email author 
  • , Kristina TiedjeAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology, Université Lumière Lyon 2
  • , Sonja J. MeiersAffiliated withDepartment of Nursing, Winona State University
  • , Ahmed A. MohamedAffiliated withCollege of Human Medicine, Michigan State University
  • , Christine M. FormeaAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacy, Mayo Clinic
  • , Jennifer L. RidgewayAffiliated withDepartment of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic
  • , Gladys B. AsieduAffiliated withDepartment of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic
  • , Ginny BoyumAffiliated withRochester Community and Technical College
  • , Jennifer A. WeisAffiliated withCenter for Translational Science Activities, Mayo Clinic
    • , Julie A. NigonAffiliated withHawthorne Education Center
    • , Christi A. PattenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic
    • , Irene G. SiaAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Mayo Clinic

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Immigrants and refugees to the United States exhibit relatively low levels of physical activity, but reasons for this disparity are poorly understood. 16 gender and age-stratified focus groups were conducted among 127 participants from heterogenous immigrant and refugee groups (Cambodian, Mexican, Somali, Sudanese) in a small Minnesota urban community. We found many similarities in perceived barriers and facilitators to physical activity between heterogeneous immigrant and refugee groups. While the benefits of physical activity were widely acknowledged, lack of familiarity and comfort with taking the first steps towards being physically active were the most significant barriers to physical activity. Participants described being motivated by social support from family, friends, and communities to be physically active. Our findings suggest that shared experiences of immigration and associated social, economic, and linguistic factors influence how physical activity is understood, conceptualized and practiced.


Immigrant and refugee health Physical activity Focus groups