Barriers and enablers to engagement in exercise and physical activity in non-English speaking South Asian people with chronic musculoskeletal disease

Nasimah Maricar, Gillian Yeowell, Trixy David, Behram Khan, Anne Barton, Kimme Hyrich, Sandra E. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Exercise and physical activity (EPA) are recommended for people with chronic musculoskeletal disease; however, lower levels of engagement with EPA has been consistently reported in people from the South Asian community across a range of diseases. As language can pose a significant barrier in healthcare, this study aimed to understand the enablers and barriers to the acceptance of EPA among non-English speaking South Asian people who attended rheumatology clinics.

Methods: 12 non-English speaking individuals from the South Asian community who had chronic musculoskeletal disease with significant pain scores were interviewed via telephone or face-to-face in their spoken languages. The audio recordings of the interviews were translated into English and transcribed verbatim. Data was analysed using thematic analysis implemented in the NVivo 12 Pro software program.

Results: The mean age was 52 years (9 women and 2 men). One main theme was identified: ‘Enablers and barriers to exercise and physical activity’. Enablers to EPA were having knowledge about the benefits of EPA, being given resources in a language that they understood, and supportive environments such as having access to community facilities for those who could not undertake EPA in their houses. Barriers included physical health such as pain and fatigue, lack of time, difficulties with transportation to exercise venues, dislike of group exercises and lack of understanding of what and how to do exercise and be physically active. Participants' beliefs about EPA and whether they impacted their physical health seemed to influence whether they were undertaken or not. There was a perception that their culture shaped their compatriots’ beliefs about EPA, and it was not normal practice for people from their country of birth to engage in it.

Conclusions: This is the first qualitative study to explore the barriers and enablers to engagement in EPA in non-English speaking South Asian people with chronic musculoskeletal disease. Modifiable factors such as addressing the level of knowledge on the benefits of EPA in the management of chronic joint and muscle pain; aiding the development of the skills required to exercise safely and confidently despite chronic pain and providing information and services in the native language could promote the EPA engagement of non-English speaking South Asian individuals with chronic musculoskeletal disease. The findings may inform improvements within clinical services to promote the benefits, impact and self-efficacy of engagement with EPA as part of chronic musculoskeletal disease management.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Rheumatology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Jan 2024


  • osteoarthritis
  • inflammatory arthritis
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • activity
  • fitness
  • qualitative


Dive into the research topics of 'Barriers and enablers to engagement in exercise and physical activity in non-English speaking South Asian people with chronic musculoskeletal disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this