Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 294–305 | Cite as

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

  • Wendy J. Brown
  • Kristiann C. Heesch
  • Yvette D. Miller
Original Article



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.


Australia Exercise Cohort study Life experiences Women’s health 



The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, which was conceived and developed by groups of interdisciplinary researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Queensland, is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia Government Department of Health and Ageing. We thank all participants for their valuable contribution to this project. These analyses were supported in part by funding from the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (Office for Women). Dr. Heesch was supported by NHMRC program grant #301200 and Dr. Miller was supported by NHMRC capacity building grant #252977, both at The University of Queensland, School of Human Movement Studies.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy J. Brown
    • 1
  • Kristiann C. Heesch
    • 1
  • Yvette D. Miller
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Human Movement StudiesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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