, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 13-29

Development and evaluation of a pilot program to promote exercise among mothers of preschool children

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The health benefits of physical activity are well documented, but mothers of young children experience significant barriers to exercise. A 10-week minimal-intervention exercise program, involving a weekly meeting at which child care was provided, and guidance in establishing independent exercise was developed on the basis of previous research with this population group. Thirty-two women with children under age 5, and in the contemplation or preparation stages of exercise behavior change, were recruited from Australian play groups. Postprogram measures showed small but significant decreases in body mass index, resting heart rate, and diastolic blood pressure. Three months later, 41% of participants were still active. Family-related constraints were highly disruptive to these participants. This study is limited by its small sample size, lack of controls, and potential biases in recruitment and assessment, but it does suggest that hard-to-reach groups, such as mothers of young children, may be mobilized to exercise if programs explicitly address social contexts and the constraints on individual choice.