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Objective - Pedometer

816. Do physical activity interventions in Indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand improve activity levels and health outcomes? A systematic review

Research Article
Ashleigh Sushames, Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen and Klaus Gebel
February 2017

Commentary by Rona Macniven, GlobalPAnet Executive, The University of Sydney, Australia

The health status and life expectancy of Indigenous people in both Australia and New Zealand are considerably poorer than the non-Indigenous population. Physical inactivity is a leading disease risk factor for Indigenous Australians yet there are undisputed health benefits of being physically active in the prevention of a wide range of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. One of the main policy responses to the deleterious effects of physical inactivity has been to deliver interventions to increase physical activity levels. Yet there is a lack of knowledge of the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for Indigenous people. This review synthesises the literature on the effects of physical activity interventions for Indigenous people on activity levels and health outcomes.

Using the PRISMA statement for systematic reviews, a range of databases were searched for both peer-reviewed articles and grey literature for interventions for adults where a study aim was to increase activity levels. Thirteen studies were found; nine from Australia, four from New Zealand. The interventions were a mixture of individual and group based exercise programs and community lifestyle interventions with a duration of four weeks to two years and all had implemented cultural adaptations. Participant numbers varied widely from only 18 adults to 436 adults. Only six studies measured physical activity; four by subjective methods such as a questionnaire and two by using pedometers but only one study showed significant improvements in activity levels. Five studies conducted fitness tests, all of which resulted in improvements. Almost all studies measured weight and body mass index and most found significant reductions post-intervention. Improvements in blood pressure and clinical markers were also found in the studies in which these were measured. Only three studies examined intervention effects beyond one year and evidence of maintenance of changes were mixed.

These findings demonstrate that there are still only a small number of studies that have evaluated the impact of physical activity interventions for Indigenous Australians and New Zealanders. Currently, there is a significant gap in the evidence of how to increase physical activity among these populations although some interventions have achieved fitness and broader health improvements such as weight loss. Further evaluation of Indigenous physical activity interventions is urgently required to determine effective ways of improving health through physical activity.

Source: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13: 129. Access to this article may depend on your Institutional rights. Access to the full article.