The Perceptions of Physical Activity Participation among Middle Eastern and North African Born Women Living in Australia

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Physical activity is widely accepted as a health promoting behaviour, offering an array of physical, social and mental health benefits. Despite the substantial body of evidence pertaining to the benefits of physical activity participation, it is important to consider that not all groups across the Australian population experience equitable access to this health behaviour. This thesis explores the perceptions of physical activity participation among Middle Eastern and North African born women living in Australia, a population group previously identified as being at risk of physical activity inequity. Specifically, this research seeks to understand the ways women of Middle Eastern and North African origin define and understand the concept of physical activity, as well as their experiences with and perceptions of, physical activity participation. The physical activity experiences of the participant group were explored using focus group interviews and individual written narratives. The collected data was analysed and interpreted through the lens of Bandura’s (1986) Social Cognitive Theory, which emphasises the way in which human behaviour is influenced by both individual and environmental factors. Key findings from the present study revealed that the term ‘physical activity’ was generally well understood across the participant group. The participants were able to describe physical activity, and provide examples that aligned well with the accepted definition in the literature. Physical activity was associated with a wide range of perceived benefits such as subjective improvements in physical and mental health. Numerous factors that were perceived to motivate and enable physical activity participation were also identified, such as opportunities for social interaction, as well as factors that were perceived to hinder or constrain involvement, including a lack of time and a lack of access to suitable spaces. Exploring the various influences on physical activity participation, examined through the lens of Social cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986), established several recommendations and strategies for addressing the physical activity inequities experienced by the target group. In conclusion, this research contributes to the relevant body of literature and provides specific guidance for the promotion of physical activity among Middle Eastern and North African born women living in Australia.
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