, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 294-305
Date: 09 Jun 2009

Life Events and Changing Physical Activity Patterns in Women at Different Life Stages

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The impact of life events on physical activity (PA) is little understood.


The purpose of this study is to examine relationships between specific life events and changes in PA in three cohorts of Australian women.


Young (N = 7,173; age 22–27 years), mid-age (N = 8,762; 51–56 years), and older (N = 6,660; 73–78 years) participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health completed surveys on two occasions, 3 years apart.


About one third of the young and mid-age women and one quarter of the older women were “active” at both times. Decreasing PA was associated with marriage and childbirth in young women and with declining health in older women. Increasing PA was associated with retirement and death of spouse in the mid-age women. Stressful events such as divorce, harassment at work, and violence were also associated with changing PA.


There were significant associations between age-specific life events and PA changes. Understanding these relationships could inform interventions for preventing declines in activity at specific life stages.