A three-year Massey University study is to investigate what type of exercise works best for overweight Maori men.
Forty participants, from Manawatu and Horowhenua, will embark from today on a 12-week programme of resistance training, cardio work, or a combination of both.
Researchers will then assess the impact on individuals' metabolic health, their risk of diabetes, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
In 2006-07, Te Puni Kokiri found that Maori were 1.7 times more likely to be obese than the rest of the total population. Maori adults were also more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Health Ministry figures identified diabetes as one of the top five causes of death for Maori males from 2004-06.
Researcher Isaac Warbrick hopes to establish not only what form of exercise has the best impact on Maori men's health, but also their wellbeing.
"Being healthy isn't just the absence of illness," he said. "It's a bigger picture than saying this one type of training reduces the risk of diabetes better than this one.
"I also want to know how does this activity impact on time spent with family, energy at work, outlook on life, and mood."
Dr Warbrick believes these findings will empower Maori men to maintain an active lifestyle in the face of work and family commitments, after focus groups identified time constraints as a barrier to exercise.
"We're using a whanau approach so that individuals aren't relying on a trainer.
"We're going to set them up in groups so that they're building this social interaction and so that, after the 12 weeks, they have the relationships and the knowledge to maintain that lifestyle change."
Dr Warbrick hopes to redefine what an active lifestyle means to Maori men.
"It's about changing that perception of what exercise is, so that they realise that it's something that our ancestors did - that is very much part of our culture."
LECTURER HAPPY TO BE 'GUINEA PIG'
Te Reo lecturer Hone Morris is not at all apprehensive about being a "guinea pig" for Massey University's School of Sport and Exercise.
Mr Morris begins a 12-week exercise programme today as part of a study to determine which form of physical activity most reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity-related illness in Maori men.
Though he considers he leads an active lifestyle - he has played sport at a representative level, and enjoys golf - he hopes participating in the study will encourage him to exercise more regularly.
He acknowleged that not all Maori men prioritised their health.
"It's the modern lifestyle we've adopted in the last 20 years or so. Time restraints have become more prominent."
He hopes the findings will enable individuals to make time for effective exercise.
"The intention of the research appealed to me," he said.
"We might find some sort of timetable where men can look after the whanau and find time to keep themselves fit.
"If we can show that, by doing this amount of exercise weekly, it can improve resistance to those illnesses that weren't around pre-European times, then maybe the male Maori population will catch on."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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