Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 263–275 | Cite as

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

  • Mark L. WielandEmail author
  • Kristina Tiedje
  • Sonja J. Meiers
  • Ahmed A. Mohamed
  • Christine M. Formea
  • Jennifer L. Ridgeway
  • Gladys B. Asiedu
  • Ginny Boyum
  • Jennifer A. Weis
  • Julie A. Nigon
  • Christi A. Patten
  • Irene G. Sia
Original Paper


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 



The authors would like to thank all RHCP partners who contributed to the organization, implementation, and dissemination of this work, especially Tiffany Palmer, Miriam Goodson, John Lasuba, Sam Ouk, Sheena Loth, Kim Sin, Jennifer Lopez, and Fatuma Omer. This publication was supported by NIH Grant No. R01 HL 111407 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and by CTSA Grant No. UL1 TR000135 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark L. Wieland
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristina Tiedje
    • 2
  • Sonja J. Meiers
    • 3
  • Ahmed A. Mohamed
    • 4
  • Christine M. Formea
    • 5
  • Jennifer L. Ridgeway
    • 6
  • Gladys B. Asiedu
    • 6
  • Ginny Boyum
    • 7
  • Jennifer A. Weis
    • 8
  • Julie A. Nigon
    • 9
  • Christi A. Patten
    • 10
  • Irene G. Sia
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversité Lumière Lyon 2LyonFrance
  3. 3.Department of NursingWinona State UniversityRochesterUSA
  4. 4.College of Human MedicineMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Department of PharmacyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  6. 6.Department of Health Sciences ResearchMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  7. 7.Rochester Community and Technical CollegeRochesterUSA
  8. 8.Center for Translational Science ActivitiesMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  9. 9.Hawthorne Education CenterRochesterUSA
  10. 10.Department of Psychiatry and PsychologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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