Physical activity programs for refugee Somali women: Working out in a new country

Pauline B. Guerin, Roda Omar Diiriye, Callie Corrigan, Bernard Guerin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Islamic refugee women from non-westernized Countries face a number of challenges in adapting to their new Country, especially when that new country is westernized and is not Islamic. Refugees are primarily women and children, so it is important that women be in their best health because they usually bear the responsibility of caring for each other and children, often in very difficult situations. Maintaining or obtaining good levels of physical activity contributes to good health: mentally, physically and socially. At the request of women in the local Somali community, a number of initiatives were taken to increase their opportunities for physical activity. Through interviews, observations and conversations we explored barriers to fitness and exercise, the social, physical, and cultural effects of physical activity, and solutions to facilitate Somali women's access to fitness and exercise opportunities. Physical activity interventions included exercise classes in a community center used by the Somali community, trial memberships at a local women-only fitness center, and walking and sports groups. We discuss the procedural issues relating to setting-up these physical activity opportunities, the results of interviews with 37 of the women about their health and perceptions and issues relating to the physical activity options, and our recommendations for setting up similar classes with other Somali or Islamic communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-99
Number of pages17
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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