Original article| Volume 25, ISSUE 1, P79-87, January 2015

A Feasibility Study of a Culturally and Gender-specific Dance to Promote Physical Activity for South Asian Immigrant Women in the Greater Toronto Area

  • Mandana Vahabi
    Correspondence to: Mandana Vahabi, PhD, Faculty of Community Services, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B2K3. Phone: +1 416 979 5000; fax: +1 416 979 5332.
    Faculty of Community Services, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Centre for Global Health Equity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • Cynthia Damba
    Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Published:December 06, 2014DOI:



      Despite ample evidence demonstrating the protective effect of physical activity, the uptake of regular physical activity among South Asian (SA) women remains relatively low. The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility and health impacts of implementing a culture- and gender-specific physical activity among SA immigrant women residing in Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Ontario, Canada.


      A community-based mixed methods approach combining cohort pretest and posttest design and qualitative methods employing in depth interviews was used. Twenty-seven SA women from the GTA participated in a 6-week, 2 days per week, Bollywood Dance exercise program led by a female SA instructor.


      The participation rate was considerably high (85%) and approximately 82% of the participants attended 10 or more of the classes offered. The participants' physical measurements (weight, waist and hip, and body mass index) decreased, although not significantly, over the 6-week period and there was an improvement in their physical, mental, and social health. During the face-to-face interviews, participants reported feeling less stressed and tired, being more mentally and physically robust, and having a sense of fulfillment and self-satisfaction. The only common criticism expressed was that the 6-week duration of the intervention was too short.


      The results showed that the Bollywood Dance was a feasible strategy in engaging SA immigrant women in physical activity. The key aspects when designing culture- and gender-specific dance interventions include community participation and active engagement in planning and implementation of the program, a supportive environment, same gender and culturally attuned dance instructor, easy access, and minimal to no cost.
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      Mandana Vahabi holds a PhD in Nursing and a Masters of Health Science in Epidemiology and Community Health from the University of Toronto. Dr. Vahabi is currently an Associate Professor at the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University. She is Co-Director of Center for Global Health and Health Equity.


      Dr. Cynthia Damba, MHSc is a physician from East Africa and holds a Masters of Health Science in Epidemiology and Community Health from University of Toronto. She is currently a Senior Epidemiologist at Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.