Study Using Exercise to Combat Diabetes in South Asian Women

Like many mothers, Asmita Patel has struggled to find time to exercise in recent years.

Between work, taking care of children, caring for relatives, and sending the children to activities, she didn’t get much exercise. That changed when I joined a clinical trial at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine that focused on getting South Asian women with high obesity to exercise more.

Patel and her daughter now attend weekly Zoom workout classes to discuss culture, exercise, and health with other South Asian mothers and daughters in the Chicago area.

Patel, who immigrated to the United States from India around the age of 15, said: years ago.

Patel and her daughter are one of 60 mother-daughter pairs participating in an ongoing community-based clinical trial initiated by Dr. Namratha Kandula nearly three years ago.She and other researchers embarked on the project in hopes of finding ways to address the high rates of diabetes, gestational diabetes, and cardiovascular problems among South Asian women in the United States.

About 23.3% of South Asians had diabetes between 2011 and 2016, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a nationwide survey of US adults. By comparison, 12.1% of whites, 20.4% of blacks, and 22.1% of Hispanics surveyed had diabetes at the same time.

Researchers don’t fully understand why people in South Asia develop diabetes at such high rates, but they say it could be due to a number of factors.

People in South Asia support their weight differently than other groups, often carrying it around their abdomen rather than their legs or hips, says Kandula, a professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Feinberg University. says. It may be because of foods that are popular in South Asian cultures.

Kandura said the reasons for not exercising are many and varied, especially in South Asian cultures. South Asian people are a diverse group from countries such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

“Women and girls from South Asia face very distinct barriers to exercise and physical activity,” Kandula said.

Depending on the culture, some South Asian women may not want to wear exercise equipment in public or feel self-conscious about wearing traditional clothing to the gym. there is.

Some people may not want to go to classes that resemble dance. In the study, one of her groups of Muslim South Indian women chose not to listen to music during her workout classes, Kandura said.

And some South Asian cultures believe that the only reason to exercise is to lose weight, so thin people don’t need to go to the gym, Kandura says.

Still, there may be a more common reason why many South Asian women don’t exercise more: lack of time.

Shazia Fazal of Rogers Park said she didn’t think much about her health before joining the study. She said she was busy taking care of her children, husband and home. I was told it was.

Through the exercise classes and discussions in this study, she learned the importance of taking time for her own health.

“We spend all day on those things and have no time for ourselves,” said Fazal, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan about 20 years ago. “We should have our own time too. We just do those things and forget about them.”

For many South Asians, especially those who were immigrants, exercising may not be a priority. Because they are very focused on educating and raising families to ensure that their children get the kind of life that prompted their immigration to the United States. First of all, Kandura said.

“I think people in South Asia work hard,” said Shabana Saleem, a Skokie who participated in the study. “They don’t take time for themselves. They think they can make money here and they work hard because they make money for their children.”

The purpose of this study was to provide workout classes and discussions to South Asian women and their daughters to increase physical activity in the long term, increase women’s confidence in exercise, and improve mother-daughter relationship on health and physical activity. is to see if communication increases.

In this study, half of the participants were placed in an intervention group, with mothers attending exercise classes twice weekly and daughters aged 11 to 16 attending weekly exercise classes and participating in group Zoom discussions. Classes and discussions last her 18 weeks. Other mother-daughter pairs were placed in a control group and received only pamphlets about the importance of exercise.

Researchers used wearable monitors to measure the physical activity levels of mothers and daughters, and measured blood pressure and weight before classes started, after classes ended, and one year after they first entered the study. increase.

Skokie Park District, Skokie Health Department, Metropolitan Asian Family Services, and Skokie Morton Grove School District 69 partnered with Northwestern University on this study to help recruit participants and provide information on study design. .

“Our health is our top priority and our last consideration,” said Subia Javed, District 69 Family Liaison Officer, who has helped recruit study participants and coordinate activities. I was. “This is very important to encourage them and keep them physically active, otherwise they will have diabetes and heart problems at an early age.”

Study participant Saleem said she lost weight and improved her health since she started taking the classes. She also enjoys her exercise classes with her 13-year-old daughter.

“We bond,” Saleem said. “I can spend time with her.”

Fazal’s daughter, Rania Zubair, 15, said she enjoys spending time with her mother and being physically active, especially after being “lazy” during the height of COVID-19.

“It’s really fun,” said Zubair. She said exercise is important for physical and mental health.

Fazal said her cholesterol levels have dropped since she started taking classes. The study gave her and her daughter a reason to exercise, knowing they were expected to attend class each week. She said it helped her think about the importance.

“Before, I didn’t think much about my health,” Fazal said. “Through this class, we became much more active than before.”

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