Environmental, policy, and cultural factors related to physical activity in sedentary American Indian women.

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Focus group interviews were conducted to explore sociocultural, environmental, and policy-related determinants of physical activity among sedentary American Indian women. Thirty women aged 20 to 50 years (mean = 37.4 +/- 10.6 years) participated. Three sessions were conducted with women aged 20 to 34 years and three with women aged 35 to 50 to evaluate response differences by age. Because no obvious age differences were observed, data were pooled. Barriers to physical activity included inadequate support for household and child care responsibilities and difficulties balancing home-related and societal expectations with physical activity. In addition, women reported little support from their communities and work sites to be physically active. Environmental barriers included lack of safe outdoor areas and accessible walking trails. Weather and stray dogs were also commonly mentioned. Sociocultural barriers included giving family obligations priority above all other things, being expected to eat large portions of high-fat foods, and failing to follow a traditionally active lifestyle. Enablers of physical activity included support from family and coworkers and participation in traditional community events. Suggested intervention approaches included accessible and affordable programs and facilities, community emphasis on physical activity, and programs that incorporated the needs of larger women and of families. Participants emphasized a preference for programs that were compatible with the role expectations of their families and communities, and they expressed the desire for acceptance and encouragement to be physically active from the family, the community, the worksite, and their tribal leaders.