• diabetes;
  • Mexican Americans;
  • leisure time activity;
  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III data;
  • Healthy People 2010;
  • self-management practices;
  • multilogit model;
  • secondary data analysis;
  • nursing

Background.  Diabetes is a worldwide health problem with increasing prevalence, particularly among ethnic minorities. Activity is a major component of diabetes management that can help to prevent the deadly complications of the disease. Assessment of the activities in which individuals with diabetes from specific ethnic groups such as Mexican Americans engage may facilitate identification of strategies to encourage activity among those who do not participate in activity or have only minimal, sporadic participation.

Aims.  The aims of this research were to determine: (1) What proportion of Mexican Americans with diabetes do and do not exercise? (2) What are the preferred types of leisure time activity by gender and age? (3) What the relationship is between leisure time activity and treatment of diabetes?

Methods and instrument.  A secondary analysis of data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (1988–1994) was conducted to explore leisure time activities of self-identified Mexican Americans with diabetes.

Results.  Mexican American adults in this study indicated gardening (33·7%) and walking (31·5%) as the leisure time activities in which they engaged most frequently in the month preceding data collection. Gardening and walking were frequent leisure activities of study participants for all categories of pharmacological management of the diabetes. Many did not participate in any leisure time activity in the month preceding data collection. Only six of every 10 Mexican Americans (61%) with diabetes exercised. Males (n = 136; 71%) were more likely to engage in physical activity than females (n = 171; 54%).

Limitations.  Only leisure time activity was assessed; occupational activity and household activity were not included. Data were based on self-report rather than an objective measure of subject activity. Subject knowledge of the need for activity as a component of diabetes management was not assessed and may not be recognized as an integral part of care.

Conclusions.  Diabetes is a significant health problem for many ethnic groups, including the Mexican American population, and regular physical activity is a critical component of disease management. Facilitating activity in this ethnic group is integral to controlling complications of this chronic disease.