Introduction: Research documents that Mexican Americans bear excess health risk because of physical inactivity and have higher morbidity and mortality rates from chronic diseases than do other ethnic groups. Factors influencing physical activity in this minority population, however, are not well understood. This study examines perceptions of physical activity in a population of Mexican Americans who have type 2 diabetes and live in the Texas-Mexico border region and identifies motivators and barriers to physical activity in this group.
Methods: This study used a qualitative research design and employed six focus groups comprising 39 Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes who live in the Texas-Mexico border region. A team of bilingual Mexican American researchers systematically reviewed and analyzed focus group data by means of qualitative data analysis software. The study was conducted during 2005-2006.
Results: Most participants considered physical activity to be related not only to exercise but also to occupational and home activities. Walking was the preferred type of activity. Motivators to physical activity included family support and the sense of well-being derived from physical activity. Barriers to physical activity included individual and environmental factors, such as lack of time, physical pain, depression, being overweight, unsafe neighborhoods, and lack of facilities. Participants suggested that the ideal intervention would be low in cost, family-based, close to home, and led by bilingual instructors.
Conclusion: Health promotion efforts to prevent or reduce the effects of chronic disease among Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes in the Texas-Mexico border region should focus on implementing neighborhood-based, family-oriented walking interventions.