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Am J Prev Med. 2009 Dec;37(6):488-94. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.07.013.

Epidemiology of physical activity in American Indians in the Education and Research Towards Health cohort.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA.



The health benefits of an active lifestyle are well established. However, Americans in general and American Indians specifically are not sufficiently active to achieve these health benefits.


This study presents the descriptive epidemiology of physical activity in a community-based sample of American-Indian adults.


Data came from Education and Research Towards Health (EARTH), a cross-sectional study conducted between December 2003 and April 2006 of 5207 American-Indian adults in South Dakota and Arizona. Physical activity was assessed using a culturally tailored, computer-assisted instrument. Both type and intensity of activities were measured; minutes per week averaged over the past year was the primary outcome. Individuals were categorized as being sufficiently active, not sufficiently active, or inactive using a cut point of more or less than 150 minutes/week. Information on age, gender, and BMI was also collected.


More than one third of participants were not sufficiently active (<150 minutes/week) and 18% reported no leisure-time activity. Sufficient activity was less often reported by women than men (41% vs 56%) and by participants from the Southwest than those from the Northern Plains (44% vs 50%). Of all activity categories, the most time was spent on household activities among all participants. There were clear trends in physical (in)activity across BMI strata; time spent in sedentary activities increased while leisure-time activity decreased with BMI.


American-Indian adults in this cohort exhibited levels of physical (in)activity similar to those of other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., suggesting a need for specific interventions to increase activity levels across the population.

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