Physical activity in culturally and linguistically diverse migrant groups to Western society: a review of barriers, enablers and experiences

Sports Med. 2009;39(3):167-77. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939030-00001.


A close examination of epidemiological data reveals burdens of disease particular to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) migrants, as these individuals adjust to both culture and modernization gaps. Despite the increased risk of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, overweight/obesity and cardiovascular disease, individuals from CALD groups are less likely to be proactive in accessing healthcare or undertaking preventative measures to ensure optimal health outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to review literature that outlines the barriers, challenges and enablers of physical activity in CALD groups who have recently migrated to Western society, and to identify key strategies to increase physical activity participation for these individuals. Electronic and manual literature searches were used to identify 57 publications that met the inclusion criteria. Findings from the review indicate that migration to Western societies has a detrimental effect on the health status and health behaviours of CALD groups as they assimilate to their new surroundings, explore different cultures and customs, and embrace a new way of life. In particular, there is evidence that physical inactivity is common in migrant CALD groups, and is a key contributing risk factor to chronic disease for these individuals. Challenges and barriers that limit physical activity participation in CALD groups include: cultural and religious beliefs, issues with social relationships, socioeconomic challenges, environmental barriers, and perceptions of health and injury. Strategies that may assist with overcoming these challenges and barriers consist of the need for cultural sensitivity, the provision of education sessions addressing health behaviours, encouraging participation of individuals from the same culture, exploration of employment situational variables, and the implementation of 'Health Action Zones' in CALD communities. This information will inform and support the development of culturally appropriate programmes designed to positively influence the physical activity behaviours of individuals from CALD populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Motor Activity*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology
  • Western World