Life transitions and changing physical activity patterns in young women

Am J Prev Med. 2003 Aug;25(2):140-3. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(03)00119-3.


Background: Physical activity (PA) patterns are likely to change in young adulthood in line with changes in lifestyle that occur in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The aim of this study was to ascertain whether key life events experienced by young women in their early twenties are associated with increasing levels of inactivity.

Methods: This was a 4-year follow-up of 7281 participants (aged 18 to 23 years at baseline) in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health, with self-reported measures of PA, life events, body mass index (BMI), and sociodemographic variables.

Results: The cross-sectional data indicated no change in PA between baseline (57% "active") and follow-up (56% "active"). However, for almost 40% of the sample, PA category changed between baseline and follow-up, with approximately 20% of the women changing from being "active" to "inactive," and another 20% changing from being "inactive" to "active." After adjustment for age, other sociodemographic variables, BMI, and PA at baseline, women who reported getting married, having a first or subsequent child, or beginning paid work were more likely to be inactive at follow-up than those who did not report these events.

Conclusions: The results suggest that life events such as getting married, having children, and starting work are associated with decreased levels of PA in young adult women. Strategies are needed to promote maintenance of activity at the time when most women experience these key life-stage transitions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Employment
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Logistic Models
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health*