Connecting masculinities and physical activity among senior South Asian Canadian immigrant men

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Senior South Asian (SA) men experience many health challenges which may be exacerbated by immigration. However, little is known about the health practices of this subgroup of men, including how they conceptualize connections between exercise, health and illness. An ethnographic qualitative study including fieldwork and participant observations at South Asian men's groups (SAMGs) based in British Columbia (BC), Canada and individual interviews with 36 attendees (group leaders and non-leader group members) were conducted to better understand how masculinity (as it intersects with culture, social class and age) informs and influences men's physical activity. The findings indicated that few men linked exercise with specific illnesses; however, age-induced musculoskeletal impairment and a cold, wet Canadian climate were the main restrictors of men's physical activity. Traditional SA cultures and in some cases economic hardship influenced men's preference for walking to socially connect with other men, while strenuous activity was detailed in nostalgic ways as a previously used tool for securing paid labor. The results indicate varying masculine identities, roles and relations in how men conceptualized and embodied physical activity, some of which were incongruent with Western ideals about men and exercise. Collectivism was a prevailing SA cultural norm for participants, which should be thoughtfully considered in the design and distribution of exercise-based health promotion programs targeted to senior SA Canadian immigrant men.

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Journal Article

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