Time since immigration and ethnicity as predictors of physical activity among Canadian youth: a cross-sectional study

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 21;9(2):e89509. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089509. eCollection 2014.


Background: Little is known about patterns of physical activity engaged in by youth after they immigrate to a new country. This study aims to investigate relationships between immigrant generation and ethnicity with physical activity, and to determine if the relationship between immigrant generation and physical activity was modified by ethnicity.

Methods: The data sources were Cycle 6 (2009-2010) of the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study and the 2006 Canada Census of Population. Participants (weighted n = 23,124) were young people from grades 6-10 in 436 schools. Students were asked where they were born, how long ago they moved to Canada, their ethnicity, and how many days a week they accumulated at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

Results: Youth born outside of Canada were less likely to be active than peers born in Canada; 11% vs 15% reported 7 days/week of at least 60 minutes of MVPA (p = .001). MVPA increased with time since immigration. Compared to Canadian-born youth, youth who immigrated within the last 1-2 years were less likely to get sufficient MVPA on 4-6 days/week (odds ratio: 0.66, 95% confidence interval: 0.53-0.82) and 7 days/week (0.62; 0.43-0.89). East and South-East Asian youth were less active, regardless of time since immigration: 4-6 days/week (0.67; 0.58-0.79) and 7 days/week (0.37; 0.29-0.48).

Conclusion: Time since immigration and ethnicity were associated with MVPA among Canadian youth. Mechanisms by which these differences occur need to be uncovered in order to identify barriers to physical activity participation among youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asia, Southeastern / ethnology
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Exercise*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Sedentary Behavior