A Multimethod Investigation Into Physical Activity in Midlife Women

J Phys Act Health. 2016 Dec;13(12):1351-1359. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2015-0565. Epub 2016 Aug 24.


Background: Physical inactivity in midlife women is associated with increased intra-abdominal adipose tissue development. We describe an innovative multimethod study 1) to better understand barriers to physical activity (PA) and 2) to engage midlife women to product test physical activities and identify local community-based providers and sustainable and fun PA experiences.

Methods: Formative research on PA barriers from the Chicago site Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) ancillary study of midlife women was used to develop a pilot testing measure. Feasibility, acceptability and sustainability of the PA activities were determined using the measure.

Results: Desirable locations and/or instructors were identified. The first 2 groups identified, pilot tested, and then ranked activities for their ability to promote sustained PA. The 6 top-ranked were: circuit training, total body fitness, kickboxing, Zumba, Pilates, and pedometer. The final group pilot tested highly ranked PA in 2-week blocks, and ranked pedometer and Zumba in their top 3.

Conclusion: Consensus was reached regarding activities that could be valuable in promoting sustained PA in midlife women. Choosing convenient sites and popular instructors further facilitates sustainability. Building relationships with key community partners is essential for sustainability. Community-based participant involvement in study design is a critical element in developing a healthy living intervention.

Keywords: behavioral science; community-based research; health behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Chicago
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / physiopathology
  • Menopause / ethnology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health