Purpose: Asian American immigrants' risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity increase with duration of residence in the United States (US). Regular physical activity reduces the risk of these diseases, yet little is known about physical activity in Asian Americans and how it changes after immigration.
Methods: Data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, which oversampled Asian Americans, were analyzed to investigate the effects of ethnicity, nativity, and years in the US on leisure time physical activity (LTPA), non-leisure time physical activity (NLTPA), and occupational physical activity. A total of 4226 Asian Americans and 29,473 US-born non-Asians were included.
Results: Asian Americans were much less likely to meet recommended levels of LTPA than US-born non-Asians (odds ratio [OR], men=0.51, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.42, 0.61, OR, women = 0.48, 95% CI, 0.40, 0.57). Foreign-born Asians were least likely to participate in LTPA; LTPA increased as years in the US increased. After accounting for NLTPA, Asian Americans had significantly lower estimated weekly energy expenditure than US-born non-Asians.
Conclusions: Asian Americans, especially immigrants, are at risk for low levels of LTPA and high levels of physical inactivity. NLTPA does not offset these lower levels of LTPA. Increasing physical activity is key to protecting the health of this rapidly growing population.