Provider, father, and bro - Sedentary Māori men and their thoughts on physical activity
Background Māori (indigenous peoples of New Zealand) men have a disproportionate prevalence of lifestyle-related illnesses and are targeted for national physical activity initiatives. While physical activity impacts on physical and mental health and overall wellbeing, current approaches to health promotion often lack cultural relevance. Having better understanding and incorporating relevant cultural values and motivators into program designs could improve the success of health initiatives for indigenous and minority men. Nevertheless, little is known about Māori men’s preferences, attitudes, or perspectives about physical activity, which are often interpreted through a colonized or dominant Western lens. Understanding perspectives of those groups whose values do not align with dominant cultural approaches will better equip health promoters and trainers to develop relevant community initiatives and private programs for indigenous and minority men.
Methods An indigenous research approach informed a qualitative study with 18 sedentary, ‘overweight’ Māori men aged 28 to 72 years. From 2014 to 2015 these men participated in three focus group discussions aimed at understanding their views about physical activity and exercise. Data were thematically analysed and interpeted using a Māori worldview.
Results Four key themes were identified – Cameraderie and ‘Bro-ship’; Adulthood Distractions and Priorities; Problems with Contemporary Gym Culture; and Provider Orientation. Key motivators for physical activity included a sense of ‘brotherhood’ in sport and physical activity and accountability to others. Participants reported the need to highlight the value of people and relationships, and having an orientation to the collective to enhance physical activity experiences for Māori men in general. Modern lifestyle distractions (such as being time deficient, and family responsibilities) along with other priorities contributed to difficulties incorporating physical activity into their daily lives. In addition, particular aspects and characteristics of the modern fitness culture and gym environment acted as barriers to adherence to physical activity.
Conclusions Sedentary Māori men understand the importance of physical activity well, and have a desire to be more active. Nevertheless, they find it difficult to do so while balancing other priorities, especially cultural obligations to community and whānau (immediate and wider family). This research provides valuable insight for those promoting physical activity or designing health initiatives so that they better resonate with indigenous and minority men.