The overarching aim of this thesis was to conduct a series of research studies that would inform the development of a physical activity (PA) strategy for urban Indigenous people.
Study one explored perceptions and patterns of physical activity amongst urban Indigenous people, using a series of focus groups involving 34 adult members of an urban Indigenous community. The participants' were asked about their perceptions of physical activity, the types of physical activities they participated in and the barriers preventing them from being more active.
Analysis of the data showed that females expended most of their daily energy on household duties and childminding. While many females reported that they enjoyed walking, safety concerns prevented them walking more frequently. Others mentioned that they would play social sports (such as netball) were more opportunities available. The males commented that they would walk more, but they felt that others were always judging them.
Study Two examined urban Indigenous Australians' knowledge and perceptions of Australia's National Physical Activity Guidelines and sought to determine their preferred sources of assistance for increasing physical activity. Participants (n=194) were asked questions previously used (in a 1999 survey) with 3000 mainstream Australians; responses from this earlier study were compared to the present data. It was found that, with two exceptions, urban Indigenous Australians have a similar level of knowledge relating to physical activity as the broader Australian community. However, the message that accumulating 30 minutes of activity in shorter blocks can confer health benefits needs to be more effectively articulated. In addition, the value of brisk walking (for improving health) needs to be better communicated to Indigenous people who have relatively low levels of education.
The participants indicated that they would generally prefer not to receive information relating to physical activity via the telephone, Internet, email, books or videotape. Rather, a high percentage of both men and women responded that they would prefer to accept advice from a General Practitioner or Health Professional; a high percentage of women also indicated that they would prefer to receive advice in groups.
Study Three was undertaken to identify barriers that currently limit the physical activity levels of urban Indigenous Australians. Consistent with the findings from Study One, the 62 adults who participated in the series of focus groups identified lack of time due to family and work commitments as major barriers. Cost was also identified as a significant barrier, as was personal safety. Many participants suggested that they would become more active if there were more group (community) activities available that also engaged families. Individualised attention (including regular assessment and activities tailored to specific goals) was raised by a number of the participants as something that would get them to become more active.
In conclusion the present investigations have found that the value of intermittent (block) physical activity needs to be more effectively communicated to urban Indigenous Australians. Moreover, messages relating to physical activity are best received from health professionals and general practitioners. Attempts to increase activity levels in the community are most likely to succeed if issues such as cost and safety are addressed. Finally, individualised prescription of physical activity was seen by many as a potentially worthwhile way of making activity more personal and therefore more attractive.