International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 301–308 | Cite as

Long-term dynamics in physical activity behaviour across the transition to parenthood

  • Francisco Perales
  • Jesus del Pozo-Cruz
  • Borja del Pozo-Cruz
Original Article



Gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationships between the transition to parenthood and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) amongst men and women in Australia.


12 years of nationally representative panel data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey and a piecewise pre/post fixed-effect modelling strategy that controls for person-specific unobserved effects and allows for non-linear associations are used.


Both men and women decrease the frequency of MVPA in the years preceding the birth of their first child. An abrupt fall amongst men and a smooth, non-linear decreasing trend amongst women are apparent in the post-birth years. Neither men nor women recover their pre-birth MVPA frequency in subsequent years.


Parenthood is an important factor influencing MVPA, with more marked impacts on women’s than men’s behaviour. Policymakers interested in promoting MVPA should focus on parenthood as a critical deterring factor that can trigger long-term trends of low MVPA. The proposed model can be expanded to explore the influence on MVPA of other life-course transitions.


Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity Life-course transitions Parenthood Gender Health promotion Prospective analysis 



We are thankful for useful comments and suggestions by two anonymous referees. This paper uses unit record data from the HILDA Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to either DSS or the Melbourne Institute.


  1. Allison P (2009) Fixed Effects Regression Models. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Azevedo MR, Araujo CL, Reichert FF, Siqueira FV, da Silva MC, Hallal PC (2007) Gender differences in leisure-time physical activity. Int J Public Health 52:8–15CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett I, van Sluijs E, Ogilvie D, Wareham NJ (2014) Changes in household, transport and recreational physical activity and television viewing time across the transition to retirement: longitudinal evidence from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health 68:747–753. doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203225 CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baxter J, Hewitt B, Haynes M (2008) Life course transitions and housework: marriage, parenthood, and time on housework. J Marriage Fam 70:259–272. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00479.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blair SN (2009) Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. Br J Sports Med 43:1–2PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blum JW, Beaudoin CM, Caton-Lemos L (2004) Physical activity patterns and maternal well-being in postpartum women. Matern Child Healt J 8:163–169. doi: 10.1023/B:Maci.0000037649.24025.2c CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown H, Roberts J (2011) Exercising choice: the economic determinants of physical activity behaviour of an employed population. Soc Sci Med 73:383–390. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.06.001 CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown WJ, Heesch KC, Miller YD (2009) Life Events and Changing Physical Activity Patterns in Women at Different Life Stages. Ann Behav Med 37:294–305. doi: 10.1007/s12160-009-9099-2 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Budig MJ, England P (2001) The wage penalty for motherhood. Am Sociol Rev 66:204–225. doi: 10.2307/2657415 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craig L (2007) Contemporary motherhood: the impact of children on adult time. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  11. Craig L, Mullan K (2013) Parental leisure time: a gender comparison in five countries soc polit 20:329–357. doi: 10.1093/Sp/Jxt002 Google Scholar
  12. Dai S, Wang F, Morrison H (2014) Predictors of decreased physical activity level over time among adults: a longitudinal study. Am J Prev Med 47:123–130. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.04.003 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Dollman J (2010) Changing associations of Australian parents’ physical activity with their children’s sport participation: 1985 to 2004. Aust N Z J Public Health 34:578–582. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00617.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Egger G, Donovan RJ, Giles-Corti B, Bull F, Swinburn B (2001) Developing national physical activity guidelines for Australians. Aust N Z J Public Health 25:561–563CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Eng PM, Kawachi I, Fitzmaurice G, Rimm EB (2005) Effects of marital transitions on changes in dietary and other health behaviours in US male health professionals. J Epidemiol Community Health 59:56–62. doi: 10.1136/jech.2004.020073 CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Engberg E, Alen M, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Peltonen JE, Tikkanen HO, Pekkarinen H (2012) Life events and change in leisure time physical activity: a systematic review Sports medicine 42:433–447. doi: 10.2165/11597610-000000000-00000 Google Scholar
  17. Evenson KR, Aytur SA, Borodulin K (2009) Physical activity beliefs, barriers, and enablers among postpartum women. J Womens Health 18:1925–1934. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2008.1309 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hansen BH, Ommundsen Y, Holme I, Kolle E, Anderssen SA (2014) Correlates of objectively measured physical activity in adults and older people: a cross-sectional study of population-based sample of adults and older people living in Norway. Int J Public Health 59:221–230. doi: 10.1007/s00038-013-0472-3 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Haynes M, Baxter J, Hewitt B, Western M (2010) Marital status transitions and domestic labour: a multiprocess, multilevel approach. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta, USAGoogle Scholar
  20. Henkens K, van Solinge H, Gallo WT (2008) Effects of retirement voluntariness on changes in smoking, drinking and physical activity among Dutch older workers. Eur J Pub Health 18:644–649. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckn095 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaufman G, Uhlenberg P (2000) The influence of parenthood on the work effort of married men and women. Soc Forces 78:931–947. doi: 10.2307/3005936 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mann KD, Hayes L, Basterfield L, Parker L, Pearce MS (2013) Differing lifecourse associations with sport-, occupational- and household-based physical activity at age 49-51 years: the newcastle thousand families study. Int J Public Health 58:79–88. doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0392-7 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Mummery K, Schofield G, Caperchione C (2004) Physical activity dose-response effects on mental health status in older adults. Aust N Z J Public Health 28:188–192CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Oman RF, King AC (2000) The effect of life events and exercise program format on the adoption and maintenance of exercise behavior. Health psychol 19:605–612CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Osler M, Clausen JO, Ibsen KK, Jensen GB (2001) Social influences and low leisure-time physical activity in young Danish adults. Eur J Pub Health 11:130–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Parks SE, Housemann RA, Brownson RC (2003) Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. J Epidemiol Community Health 57:29–35CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Perales F, del Pozo-Cruz J, del Pozo-Cruz J, del Pozo-Cruz B (2014a) On the associations between physical activity and quality of life: findings from an Australian nationally representative panel survey. Qual life Res 23:1921–1933. doi: 10.1007/s11136-014-0645-4 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Perales F, Pozo-Cruz JD, Pozo-Cruz BD (2014b) Impact of physical activity on psychological distress: a prospective analysis of an Australian national sample. Am J Public Health 104:e1–e7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302169 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pereira MA, Rifas-Shiman SL, Kleinman KP, Rich-Edwards JW, Peterson KE, Gillman MW (2007) Predictors of change in physical activity during and after pregnancy—project viva. Am J Prev Med 32:312–319. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2006.12.017 CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Singley SG, Hynes K (2005) Transitions to parenthood—work-family policies, gender, and the couple context. Gender Soc 19:376–397. doi: 10.1177/0891243204271515 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Treuth MS, Butte NF, Puyau M (2005) Pregnancy-related changes in physical activity, fitness, and strength. Med Sci Sport Exer 37:832–837. doi: 10.1249/01.Mss.0000161749.38453.02 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Watson N, Wooden M (2012) The HILDA Survey: a case study in the design and development of a successful household panel study. Longitud Life Course Stud 3:369–381Google Scholar
  33. Waxman A (2004) World Health Organization global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Food Nutr Bull 25:292–302PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Wheaton B (1990) Life transitions, role histories, and mental-health. Am Sociol Rev 55:209–223. doi: 10.2307/2095627 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wooldridge J (2010) Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data, 2nd edn. MIT Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Zantinge EM, van den Berg M, Smit HA, Picavet HS (2014) Retirement and a healthy lifestyle: opportunity or pitfall? A narrative review of the literature. Eur J Public Health 24:433–439. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckt157 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Perales
    • 1
  • Jesus del Pozo-Cruz
    • 2
  • Borja del Pozo-Cruz
    • 3
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, Institute for Social Science ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Physical Education and SportsUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Department of Sport and Exercise ScienceUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations