Original Research

Keeping kids safe: caregivers' perspectives on the determinants of physical activity in rural Indigenous communities


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Lorrilee McGregor1
PhD, Assistant Professor *

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Marion Maar2
PhD, Associate Professor

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Nancy Young3
PhD, Professor

Pamela Rose Toulouse4 PhD, Associate Professor


1, 2 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Sudbury, ON, Canada

3, 4 Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada

ACCEPTED: 22 October 2018

early abstract:

Introduction: Physical activity is one way to ameliorate the disproportionately high obesity rates among Indigenous children yet little is known about the determinants of physical activity in First Nation communities.

Methods: A socioecological approach was used to explore the determinants that influence physical activity among Indigenous children in six First Nation communities in northeastern Ontario. A thematic analysis of eight focus groups with 33 caregivers of Indigenous children was conducted.

Results: Caregivers reported that the present patterns of physical activity among children are different from previous generations who were physically active through walking, outside play and physically demanding chores. Changes in lifestyles, influenced by the consequences of colonization have resulted in reduced physical activity. Three themes emerged as present day impediments to physical activity: recreational technology, caregivers’ safety concerns, and barriers to community activation.

Conclusions: Organized sports and recreation programs continue to play an important part in children’s physical activity, however financial barriers, lack of program continuity and the associated decline in participation has been discouraging for caregivers. Low volunteerism to organize community activities and the resulting reliance on government appear to be a consequence of ‘loss of life control’ a condition closely connected to colonial policies. Safety concerns focus primarily on health and social issues in the community that stem from intergenerational trauma created by colonial policies.