BRITISH Asians have done the fewest hours of recommended exercise compared to other groups since 2015, new government figures show.
People of south Asian origin were less likely than average to be physically active in all age groups between 16 and 74 years old in eastern England, the East Midlands, London, the North West, the South East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands, the study found.
In managerial, professional and lower supervisory jobs, more people of Asian heritage failed to do the recommended three hours of activity a week compared to white people and mixed ethnic groups between 2015 and 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport data showed.
Health experts have warned that urgent action is needed to encourage outdoor exercise with Covid restrictions that have forced gyms and leisure centres to close.
Professor Kiran Patel, a consultant cardiologist in the Midlands and chair of trustees for the South Asian Health Foundation, told Eastern Eye: “We all know that exercise is one of the best medicines and this applies to all of us. We know that there are studies showing lower levels of activity in some south Asian populations.
“It is therefore imperative that we use the current pandemic as an opportunity to use exercise to not only reduce the risk of adverse outcomes from Covid-19 should one be unfortunate enough to contract it, but also to reduce the long-term risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension.
“Furthermore, even when patients have a health condition, exercise is often a great way to improve health, so it is really important that patients with high blood pressure, and diabetes do exercise after seeking the advice of their healthcare professionals.”
The data, published in October, found that overall, 63.3 per cent of people in England did 150 minutes or more of physical activity a week. That figure fell to 53.9 per cent in the Asian community. People from a mixed-race background were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be physically active over the four-year period.
Professor Gurch Randhawa, director of the Institute for Health Research at University of Bedfordshire, told Eastern Eye: “Our research shows the need for culturally competent healthcare that emphasises the importance of lifestyle and diet, as well as adherence to medical treatment, by developing tailored messages that acknowledge the cultural context of each patient.
“The ability to undertake physical activity is influenced by a range of structural factors – poverty, employment, housing, education, health. It is imperative that structural inequalities which disproportionately impact upon south Asian communities are addressed so they are able to engage in increased physical activity.”
Under the current lockdown rules, certain leisure and sporting facilities such as gyms, sports courts and facilities, leisure centres, fitness and dance studios, golf courses, swimming pools, riding centres, outdoor playgrounds are open and subject to relevant social contact rules in each tier. However, indoor group activities and classes are not permitted in areas where Tier 3 restrictions have been imposed.
Julie Ward is a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) charity. Reacting to the research, she said: “The importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and lowers your chance of dying early.
“Research has shown people of south Asian background have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can lead to coronary heart disease.
“To help lower your risk, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking or cycling each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as running. The BHF’s My Step Challenge and MyCycle are great ways to gently increase your daily activity and you can set your own targets as you go.”
One of the schemes that aims to get south Asian women exercising at home is called Pungra. The virtual initiative, which runs until the end of the year, is funded by Sport England.
[email protected] Activators are volunteers who form a community to motivate friends, relatives and other females to keep fit while watching Punjabi music videos on YouTube.
Pungra’s founder Ravi Sandhu said: “Our videos are popular. However, we have had feedback from some who find it hard to motivate themselves to do an on-demand workout at home by themselves, which is where the idea of having [email protected] Activators came from.”