South Asian Men May Need to Exercise Longer

3 Minute Read

An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students
An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students

New research has suggested that men of South Asian origin may need to exercise for approximately 20 minutes a day longer than white European males.
Current physical activity guidelines recommend that all adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, comparable to walking briskly for 30 minutes five days a week. However, new findings from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences have shown that men of South Asian ethnic origin may need to undertake around 250 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to obtain equivalent benefits.

Researchers tested 75 South Asian and 83 European men, aged between 40 and 70, measuring their physical activity over a seven day period. Motion sensing devices were used to track activity and each participant’s risk of heart disease and diabetes was assessed by measuring levels of sugar, insulin and fat in their bloodstream, as well as their blood pressure.

The results demonstrate for the first time that South Asian men may need to undertake greater levels of physical activity than white European men in order to exhibit a similar risk profile for heart disease and diabetes. This suggests that physical activity guidelines may ultimately need to be revised to take into account ethnic differences in heart disease and diabetes risk. This would represent an important departure from the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendations.

It is already known that South Asians, who represent 20 per cent of the world’s population, have a 3-5 fold increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes

“While this would be a new suggestion for physical activity guidelines, the concept of ethnic-specific public health guidelines has already been adopted for obesity,” said Dr Jason Gill, who led the study alongside Dr Carlos Celis-Morales, Dr Nazim Ghouri, Dr Mark Bailey and Professor Naveed Sattar. “Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) recommended that Asians need to achieve lower levels of body mass index (BMI) than Europeans for the prevention of diabetes, challenging the notion that a BMI threshold of 30 kg.m-2 for obesity is appropriate for all ethnic groups. Our findings extend the concept of ethnicity-specific public health guidance to the domain of physical activity.”

Dr Ghouri, said: “It is already known that South Asians, who represent 20 per cent of the world’s population, have a 3-5 fold increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes. They can develop the disease around a decade earlier and at a lower BMI, compared with white Europeans. Previous studies have also shown that South Asians have lower levels of aerobic fitness and have a reduced ability to oxidise fat during exercise, compared to white Europeans. That is likely to contribute to their adverse risk profile for diabetes and heart disease. However, despite their increased diabetes and heart disease risk, South Asians appear, at least in the UK, to be less active than their white European counterparts.”

“Our preliminary results make a clear case for physical activity guidelines to be stratified according to ethnicity and for messages to be tailored in a more effective manner,” added Dr Celis-Morales. The findings were published in the medical journal PLOS ONE.


Lee Cain

Lee Cain

Writer, Tutor and Experienced Fitness Professional

Lee has over 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry and has performed multiple roles, including physical training instructor, strength and conditioning coach, lecturer, writer, tutor, assessor and verifier for vocational qualifications. He has a passion for all things exercise, with his key specialisms being strength and performance-based training.

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