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Women’s Exercise Priorities Vary With Life Stages

Last Updated: August 26, 2009.

Self-care often loses out to family obligations, analysis finds.

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of exercise women get changes as they go through different life phases, according to Australian researchers.

In an analysis of data from more than 40,000 women, lower levels of physical activity were associated with marriage and childbirth in young women and declining health in older women. But, the researchers found, activity levels often increased in women who were retired or widowed.

"By recognizing the life events that are associated with decreases in activity, women could be alerted to the risk," lead author Wendy Brown, a professor at the University of Queensland, said in a news release from the Center for Advancing Health. "For example, if you are an older woman with heart disease or diabetes, it is vitally important to stay active, as physical activity can help to manage those conditions."

Brown suggested that widowed women may use increased physical activity as a way to cope with the loss of their spouse. The study also found that young women who suffer harassment at work tend to boost their activity levels, and this may be their way of coping with the stress of the situation.

The study appears in a recent online edition of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

"Situations like marriage and children change the amount of expendable time during the day," Amy Eyler, a professor of community health at St. Louis University, said in the news release. "It may vary culturally, but having children almost always decreases the feeling of self-priority for women."

Eyler added: "Figuring out ways to maintain regular physical activity throughout the life cycle is important. Even a walk around the block with a good friend can do wonders for both mental and physical health."

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about physical activity.

SOURCE: Center for Advancing Health, news release, Aug. 13, 2009

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