Arab female and male perceptions of factors facilitating and inhibiting their physical activity: Findings from a qualitative study in the Middle East

Tam Truong Donnelly, Al-Anoud bint Mohammed Al-Thani, Kathleen Benjamin, Al-Hareth Al-Khater, Tak Shing Fung, Mohamed Ahmedna, Ailsa Welch

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Objectives: Physical inactivity is a leading global risk to health by contributing to obesity and other chronic diseases. Many chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), can be prevented and controlled by modifying lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity [PA]. However, prevalence of insufficient physical activity and obesity is high in the Middle East Region. In Qatar, the incidence rates of CVDs, diabetes, colon, and breast cancer have been rising rapidly. The purpose of this study was to explore facilitators and barriers influencing PA of adult Arab men and women living in Qatar and to understand what they think would be helpful to increase PA. The goal of the research is to identify culturally appropriate and effective interventions that improve the health of Arab population.

Design: Using the socioecological model as the theoretical framework, we conducted an exploratory qualitative study with 128 Arab adult men and women living in Qatar. We utilized focus group interviews to collect the data and performed thematic analysis to generate themes.

Results: At the individual level, perceived benefits of PA, presence of diseases, person’s will, motivation and goals, and time to exercise influenced the individual’s PA. At the sociocultural level, religious teachings of Islam, cultural, attitude, beliefs, and practices, and informal support influenced the participants’ PA. At the organizational and political level, physical environment to exercise, accessibility of facilities, organizational support, and health information about PA influenced their PA.

Conclusion: Arab men and women are aware of the importance and benefits of PA. They have the motivation to be physically active, but in the absence of supportive environment, their knowledge might not translate into action. Creating supportive environments at multiple levels that are conducive to PA is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199336
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2018

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