Physical Activity, Length of Residence, and Vehicle Ownership among U.S. Immigrants: An Analysis of the 2003 New Immigrants Survey
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BACKGROUND: As immigrants' length of residence in the U.S. increases, it is unclear how their levels of physical activity change. Vehicle ownership may play a role by discouraging active transportation. METHODS: Using data from the 2003 New Immigrant Survey, a nationally representative questionnaire of recent, documented immigrants (n=7240), we assessed the cross-sectional relationship between length of U.S. residence and levels of light (LPA) and vigorous (VPA) physical activity with descriptive analysis and multivariate logistic regression. We also assessed the impact of vehicle ownership on this relationship. RESULTS: Some 38.8% reported engaging in LPA five or more times per week, 31.2% reported VPA at least once per week, and 56.9% reported either LPA or VPA beyond thresholds. During the first ten years of residence, there was a small decrease in average LPA and small increase in average VPA. Most of the decline in LPA occurred within three years after arrival. In regression models adjusted for demographic and socioeconomic factors, those living in the U.S. more than one year were less likely to engage in LPA five or more times per week than the newest arrivals (e.g. 1 to <5 vs. <1y of residence, OR: 0.82 95% CI: 0.71-0.96). This relationship was not significant after controlling for vehicle ownership. In models adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic factors, those living in the U.S. five to less than ten years and fifteen or more years were more likely to engage in VPA at least once per week than those living in the U.S. less than one year. This relationship did not change when vehicle ownership was added to the model. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that many immigrants participate in high levels of light physical activity upon arrival, but this percentage decreases within the first three years of residence. Curbing the decline in may require an understanding of how vehicle ownership decreases light physical activity, particularly active transportation. Levels of vigorous activity may increase slightly over time but remain relatively low regardless of length of residence.
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