Physical activity among indigenous Australian children and youth in remote and non-remote areas

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Journal Article
Social Science and Medicine, 2018, 206 pp. 93 - 99
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© 2018 Sport and physical activity (PA) hold particular significance in Australian Indigenous communities, and have the potential to address many of the health and education challenges faced by Indigenous communities. Optimal levels of PA are an important foundation in efforts to build healthy communities and reduce social disadvantage experienced to date. Yet little evidence relating to the current levels of PA within these communities, or the relationship between PA and outcomes, has been available. Drawing on national survey data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we examine levels of PA in the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2012-13. These data describe PA levels among Indigenous Australians, aged 5–17 years, in remote and non-remote communities. We also examine the relationship between PA and participation in education and self-reported health among 15–17 year olds. Overall, participation rates appear to be high, with 64–84% of youth reporting at least 60 min of PA on the previous day. A gender gap was also evident, with lower levels of activity among girls. PA decreased with age, particularly at or around the age of puberty. There were no significant associations between PA and either self-reported health or engagement in study. There was a relationship between high PA and low area-level socio-economic status in remote areas, but no association in non-remote areas. The differences between remote and non-remote areas highlight the importance of disaggregated analysis of Indigenous populations and are consistent with qualitative studies identifying locally contextualised factors influential in promoting PA.
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