Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 300–306 | Cite as

Determinants of Physical Activity Among Somali Women Living in Maine

  • John T. DevlinEmail author
  • Deqa Dhalac
  • Asha A. Suldan
  • Ana Jacobs
  • Khadija Guled
  • Kolawole A. Bankole
Original Paper


Somali women living in the US are at increased risk for chronic health conditions due to changes in lifestyle following immigration. Numerous barriers to physical activity have been reported in this population. Behavioral theory may inform the design of successful health interventions. We explored in focus groups the behavioral determinants of physical activity (theory of planned behavior, self-efficacy) among Somali women (N = 30). We found that most (two-thirds) subjects were sedentary, although women who had lived in the US for 10 years or longer were more likely to be active. Somali women recognize the health threat of physical inactivity, including high rates of obesity. Moral norms appear to be the major barrier to physical activity, due to prohibitions against exercising in public or in Western-style clothing. Taking moral norms into consideration should allow for the design of culturally-appropriate exercise programs that can address a major health threat in this vulnerable population.


Physical activity Immigrant Women Behavioral determinants Obesity 



The authors would like to thank Nananda Col, M.D., M.P.H., and Paul Han, M.D., for their helpful criticism. This research was supported with funding from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • John T. Devlin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deqa Dhalac
    • 2
  • Asha A. Suldan
    • 3
  • Ana Jacobs
    • 1
  • Khadija Guled
    • 4
  • Kolawole A. Bankole
    • 2
  1. 1.Maine Medical Center, Center for Outcomes Research and EvaluationPortlandUSA
  2. 2.City of Portland Public Health and Human Services Department, Minority Health ProgramPortlandUSA
  3. 3.City of Portland Public Health and Human Services Department, Oral Hygiene ProgramPortlandUSA
  4. 4.Community Counseling Center, Refugee & Immigrant Case Management ProgramPortlandUSA

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