Type of physical activity goal influences participation in healthy midlife women

Womens Health Issues. 2008 Jul-Aug;18(4):281-91. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2008.02.003. Epub 2008 May 12.


Background: Regular physical activity can help to prevent cardiovascular disease in women. Understanding midlife women's exercise goals could offer insight into their motivational facilitators and barriers, and assist in the development of better primary prevention strategies for this population.

Objectives: We sought to investigate the relationship between midlife women's physical activity goals and their physical activity participation over time.

Methods: A random sample of healthy, midlife women (40-60 years of age) was selected to participate in a longitudinal study (n = 156). This study fit a linear mixed model to the data to investigate the fixed effects of physical activity goals on physical activity participation, controlling for Body Mass Index (BMI) and Social Support. Mediational analyses were conducted to investigate whether commitment and planning mediated these results.

Results: There were significant differences between participants with distinct types of goals on physical activity participation over time (i.e., baseline, 1 month, and 1 year postbaseline), controlling for the effects of BMI and Social Support. Participants with Weight Loss and Health Benefits goals participated in significantly less physical activity than those with Sense of Well-being and Stress Reduction goals. Commitment and Planning each mediated the relationship between participant goals and their physical activity participation.

Conclusions: These data suggest having physical activity goals that aim to decrease weight or benefit health may not bode well for healthy midlife women who desire to sustain physically active lives. Instead, health care providers and health promotion specialists might better facilitate long-term participation among healthy women if they emphasize physical activity as a means to enhance their quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Self Concept
  • Women's Health