Association of American Indian cultural identity with physical activity

Ethn Dis. 2014 Winter;24(1):1-7.


Objective: Cultural factors are associated with health behaviors among American Indians. Accordingly, the objective of our study was to investigate whether cultural identity, defined as the primary language spoken at home, is associated with: 1) higher total physical activity levels, and 2) levels of leisure-time physical activity recommended for health benefits in a diverse sample of American Indians.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of 5,207 American Indian adults 18 to 82 years. Participants resided on the Oglala Sioux (n=2,025) and Cheyenne River Sioux (n=1,528) reservations in South Dakota, and the Gila River Indian Community (n=1,654) in Arizona.

Results: Bicultural participants in South Dakota, but not Arizona, reported significantly higher total physical activity compared to the English-only group (P<.05). About 35% of English only speakers, 39% of American Indian/Alaska Native only speakers, and 39% of participants speaking both languages met the 150 minutes/week activity threshold. Odds of being sufficiently active were higher among bicultural respondents in both regions when compared to respondents endorsing only English, controlling for sociodemographic and health-related covariates (P<.05).

Conclusion: Bicultural respondents among tribal members in South Dakota had significantly higher total physical activity, and higher levels of sufficient leisure-time activity in both South Dakota and Arizona, compared to those who spoke either language exclusively. Interventions that encourage American Indians to develop their bicultural efficacy and to draw on resources for healthy living that may be available in all the cultures with which they identify are recommended.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arizona
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / ethnology*
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • South Dakota
  • Young Adult