A systematic review of physical activity levels in Native American populations in Canada and the United States in the last 50 years

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Physical activity is beneficial for many chronic conditions. However, activity levels of Native Americans are not well known. This systematic review investigated if Native American populations achieve the recommended physical activity levels, compared current and past activity levels, and assessed the ability of exercise training programmes to improve health outcomes among this population. Electronic databases (e.g. MEDLINE, EMBASE) were searched and citations were cross-referenced. Included articles reported physical activity levels or investigations among Native Americans. This search identified 89 articles: self-report (n = 61), accelerometry and pedometry (n = 10), metabolic monitoring (n = 10) and physical activity interventions (n = 17). Few adults were found to meet the physical activity recommendations (27.2% [95% confidence interval = 26.9–27.5%] self-report, 9% [4–14%] accelerometry). Among children/youth, 26.5% (24.6–28.4%) (self-report) to 45.7% (42.3–49.1%) (pedometry/accelerometry) met the recommendations. Adults and children/youth were generally identified as physically inactive (via doubly labelled water). Overall, Native American adults reported lower activity levels since 2000, compared to 1990s, although similar to 1980s. Few physical activity interventions employed strong methodologies, large sample sizes and objective outcome measures. There is a clear need to increase Native American populations' physical activity. Additional research is required to evaluate exercise training programmes among this population.

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