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Call to Action

The Need for an LGBT-Focused Physical Activity Research Strategy
  • Paul F. Gorczynski
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Paul F. Gorczynski, PhD, University of Portsmouth, Department of Sport and Exercise Science, Spinnaker Building, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 2ER, United Kingdom
    Affiliations
    Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Hampshire, United Kingdom
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  • Danielle R. Brittain
    Affiliations
    Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Northern Colorado, Community Health Education Program, Greeley, Colorado
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      In 2011, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) released the report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding,
      IOM
      The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding.
      highlighting numerous gaps in health research across the life course of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. This report also included an overview of multiple health inequities among LGBT populations compared with heterosexuals, including higher rates of chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, some cancers, obesity), mental health (e.g., suicide ideation, depression, anxiety), and social environmental health (e.g., violence, discrimination, social exclusion) concerns. Although the report included a call for additional research to advance the understanding of health inequities among LGBT populations and the creation of theoretically sound and empirically driven health interventions, there was no specific mention of the role of physical activity (PA) as a means to address these and other health issues. It is well established that PA is linked to numerous physical, psychological, and social health benefits for all individuals over the life course.

      U.S. DHHS. 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Atlanta, GA: CDC. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed December 1, 2015.

      Regular participation in moderate to vigorous aerobic PA (MVPA) and muscle strengthening activity is associated with stronger bones and improved muscular fitness; lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and certain forms of cancer; and improved health-related quality of life and overall psychological well-being.

      U.S. DHHS. 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Atlanta, GA: CDC. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed December 1, 2015.

      Given low participation rates in PA among LGBT people,
      • Mereish E.H.
      • Poteat P.
      Let’s get physical: sexual orientation disparities in physical activity, sports involvement, and obesity among a population-based sample of adolescents.
      steps need to be taken to ensure LGBT people are provided the same opportunities to become active and enjoy the health benefits of an active lifestyle. Researchers have identified both personal and social barriers that prevent LGBT people from being active, including physical and psychological challenges stemming from identified chronic health conditions as well as exclusionary discriminatory practices and homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic remarks that involve threats of violence. Historically and currently, LGBT people have been systematically excluded from health research, resulting in a knowledge deficit and lack of well-informed PA interventions for LGBT people. Thus, this paper briefly provides an overview of PA research involving LGBT populations, including a discussion on how research efforts need to address LGBT inclusion in PA to overcome known health inequities. Suggestions for future research and calls for further funding are presented in the hope that they may stimulate progressive research endeavors.
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