Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

Addressing physical inactivity in Omani adults: perceptions of public health managers

Ruth M Mabrya1 c1, Zakiya Q Al-Busaidia2, Marina M Reevesa1, Neville Owena1a3 and Elizabeth G Eakina1

a1 Cancer Prevention Research Centre, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Australia

a2 Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

a3 Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, Sydney, Australia


Objective To explore barriers and solutions to addressing physical inactivity and prolonged sitting in the adult population of Oman.

Design Qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews that took place from October 2011 to January 2012. Participants were recruited through purposive sampling. Data collection and analysis was an iterative process; later interviews explored emerging themes. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed and continued until data saturation; this occurred by the tenth interviewee. Thematic content analysis was carried out, guided by an ecological model of health behaviour.

Setting Muscat, Oman.

Subjects Ten mid-level public health managers.

Results Barriers for physical inactivity were grouped around four themes: (i) intrapersonal (lack of motivation, awareness and time); (ii) social (norms restricting women's participation in outdoor activity, low value of physical activity); (iii) environment (lack of places to be active, weather); and (iv) policy (ineffective health communication, limited resources). Solutions focused on culturally sensitive interventions at the environment (building sidewalks and exercise facilities) and policy levels (strengthening existing interventions and coordinating actions with relevant sectors). Participants’ responses regarding sitting time were similar to, but much more limited than those related to physical inactivity, except for community participation and voluntarism, which were given greater emphasis as possible solutions to reduce sitting time.

Conclusions Given the increasing prevalence of chronic disease in Oman and the Arabian Gulf, urgent action is required to implement gender-relevant public health policies and programmes to address physical inactivity, a key modifiable risk factor. Additionally, research on the determinants of physical inactivity and prolonged sitting time is required to guide policy makers.

(Received June 15 2012)

(Revised October 23 2012)

(Accepted November 09 2012)

(Online publication January 25 2013)


  • Physical activity;
  • Sedentary behaviour;
  • Oman;
  • Arab


c1 Corresponding author: Email


  Address for correspondence: PO Box 476, Al Atheiba, Postal Code 130, Muscat, Oman.