Emerging adulthood and patterns of physical activity among young Australian women

Int J Behav Med. 2005;12(4):227-35. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm1204_3.


The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is associated with a sharp decline in physical activity, particularly for women. This article explores the relations between physical activity status and change and status and change in four life domains: residential independence, employment status, relationship status, and motherhood. Two waves of survey data from a representative sample of 8,545 Australian women, aged 18-23 at Survey 1 and 22-27 at Survey 2, were analyzed. Cross-sectionally, physical inactivity was most strongly related to being a mother, married, and not being in the labor force. Longitudinally, decreases in physical activity were most strongly associated with moving into a live-in relationship, with getting married, and with becoming a mother. When considered in combination, women who were married with children and not employed outside the home were the most likely to be physically inactive. The data suggest that adoption of adult statuses, particularly traditional roles involving family relationships and motherhood, is associated with reductions in physical activity for these women, although it is possible that the effect is driven by socioeconomic factors associated with early transitions. The data suggest a need for interventions to promote continued physical activity among young women who cohabit or marry and among those not in the workforce, in addition to those supporting young mothers to be physically active.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Employment
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Social Class