Barriers to Physical Activity for Aboriginal Youth: Implications for Community Health, Policy, and Culture


This paper investigates barriers to physical activity, sport, and exercise for Aboriginal youth in the province of Alberta. Focusing on the experiences of Aboriginal youth, this analysis considers the common structural, institutional, intrapersonal, and cultural constraints that many participants encountered. In response to a significant body of literature suggesting that Aboriginal peoples suffer with obesity and obesity related disease at higher rates than non-Aboriginal populations in Canada, researchers have invested more time in examining how changes in exercise and lifestyle are part of these higher levels of disease. Despite this line of inquiry, studies that comprehensively assess the complex factors that impact participation in physical activity for Aboriginal peoples are very limited. This article is concerned with how various barriers influence levels of physical activity as part of the broader context of health in Aboriginal communities. This study emphasizes Aboriginal perspectives by drawing primarily on semistructured interviews with participants. We assert that any measures directed at improving policy related to the physical activity experiences of Aboriginal youth must consider the multiple socioeconomic, political, and cultural issues that affect their lives.

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