Physical activity among Somali men in Minnesota: barriers, facilitators, and recommendations

Am J Mens Health. 2014 Jan;8(1):35-44. doi: 10.1177/1557988313489132.


Immigrants and refugees arrive to the United States healthier than the general population, but this advantage declines with increasing duration of residence. One factor contributing to this decline is suboptimal physical activity, but reasons for this are poorly understood. Persons from Somalia represent the largest African refugee population to the United States, yet little is known about perceptions of physical activity among Somali men. Somali members of a community-based participatory research partnership implemented three age-stratified focus groups and three semistructured interviews among 20 Somali men in Rochester, Minnesota. Team-based inductive analysis generated themes for barriers and facilitators to physical activity. Barriers to physical activity included less walking opportunities in the United States, embarrassment about exercise clothing and lack of familiarity with exercise equipment/modalities, fear of harassment, competing priorities, facility costs, transportation, and winter weather. Facilitators to physical activity included high knowledge about how to be active, success stories from others in their community as inspiration, and community cohesion. Findings may be used to derive interventions aimed to promote physical activity among Somali men in the United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Exercise*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Life Style / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Somalia / ethnology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult