Purpose: Public health strategies attempt to stimulate participation in physical activity, aiming at permanent behavior change. We assessed the sustained effect of participating in an exercise program on physical activity behavior 1 yr after completion of the program. Furthermore, we aimed to identify factors that predict sustained exercise participation.
Methods: Previously low-active, postmenopausal women originally participating in an exercise intervention study (the Sex Hormones and Physical Exercise study) were recontacted 1 yr after finishing the study. Their current level of physical activity was assessed by the Modified Baecke Questionnaire. MET-hours per week spent on at least moderate-intensity activities were calculated and used to assess compliance to the international physical activity recommendation. Multivariable linear regression analysis was applied to investigate which factors predict a higher level of physical activity in the intervention group 1 yr after the study.
Results: Participation in the Sex Hormones and Physical Exercise study resulted in an increased level of physical activity in both the intervention (median at baseline and at 12 months = 4.9 and 19.8 MET x h x wk(-1), respectively) and the control groups (median at baseline and at 12 months = 4.3 and 5.8 MET x h x wk(-1), respectively). Although the intervention group did not maintain the high physical activity level achieved during the study, 1 yr later they remained more active than the control group (median = 12.1 and 7.9 MET x h x wk(-1), respectively, P = 0.04). Age, baseline activity, and employment were the strongest predictors of the physical activity level in the intervention group 1 yr after finishing the study.
Conclusion: Sustained changes in physical activity behavior in previously low-active postmenopausal women are feasible after participation in a 1-yr exercise program.