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Attitudes to and Experiences of Physical Activity among Migrant Women from Former Yugoslavia——a qualitative interview study about physical activity and its beneficial effect on heart health, in Malmö, Sweden

Elin Sandström Ingrid Bolmsjö Ellis Janzon

*Corresponding author: Ellis Janzon ellis.janzon@mah.se


Background: Many risk factors for heart disease can be reduced by lifestyle modifications such as physical activity, but the attitude to and the knowledge about the beneficial effect of physical activity vary among the population. Migrant women are reported to have a higher BMI and to be less physically active than the Swedish-born women. In order to motivate them to participate in physical activity it is necessary to understand that they are not a homogenous group, and thus their knowledge about, needs for, and attitude to physical activity have to be examined. Aim: The aim of the study was to explore structural and individual factors working either as barriers against or as motivation for a change towards higher levels of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, the aim was to investigate if the migration had changed the women's level of physical activity and what would be required to increase it. Method: Seven women from Bosnia living in Malmö, Sweden, were interviewed by means of a semi-structured interview guide. The data was analyzed using Burnard's content analysis method. Results: The findings were presented in two categories, namely, “barriers against physical activity” and “motivational factors for physical activity”. With regard to the category “barriers against physical activity”, the move to Sweden had led to losses and shifts in lifestyles for the women. The greatest lifestyle changes were reported among women who had moved from rural areas in Bosnia to urban areas in Sweden. They found it troublesome to reach the same activity level in Sweden and expressed a greater need to do so. Earlier negative experiences or no experiences at all, of performing physical activity, as well as the winter climate, were seen as obstacles to being active. All the women prioritized family, work, school, and club activities above physical activity. With respect to the category “motivational factors for physical activity”, it was found that physical activity could help improve their mental balance, and the women also considered the possibility of losing weight. Conclusion: The study showed that although these migrant women had difficulties finding appropriate and realistic physical activities, and prioritized family activities, they desired to be more physically active, even if the climate was seen as a hindrance. They also reported that physical activity could be a means to achieve better mental health as well as weight loss. Politicians ought to allocate funding, and public health worker to focus more on and enable this high risk group of immigrant women to become more physical active. They should also be informed about their increased risk of myocardial infarction. This, to stimulate increased physical activity among them and in ought to be in co-working with their own immigrant organization.

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