Community Groups Motivate Young Mothers To Exercise
were given only written information on how to increase physical
activity were no more likely to increase their exercise levels than
women who did not receive the information, reports Yvette D. Miller of
the University of Queensland, Australia. However, women who received
the information and attended discussion groups to develop personalized
exercise programs were more likely to achieve target exercise levels,
"A lack of
confidence in overcoming... constraints and a distinct lack of partner
support emerged as issues affecting physical activity participation,
and formed the basis for the development of intervention strategies" in
the discussion groups, Miller said.
"mother-friendly" aerobics classes with available child care and
encouraging local organizations to schedule activities at times
convenient for mothers were among the strategies devised in the groups.
children in the household represents a life stage when women
understandably find it difficult to engage in leisure-time physical
activity," said Miller.
interventions that involve an entire community are usually more
successful than interventions that provide individual guidance, Miller
said. With this in mind, she and her colleagues explored the
possibility that printed materials, in addition to local discussion
groups to help women develop their own activity strategies, might be
more successful than printed materials alone.
A total of
554 mothers, whose average age was 33, with at least one child enrolled
in child care approximately 100 miles from Sydney were recruited for
the study; each woman provided basic personal information in a survey
that measured activity level, Miller explained.
then divided the women into three groups. The first served as a control
group and received neither advice nor support; the second group
received only booklets that described the benefits of activity and
suggestions for ways to overcome barriers to exercise commonly faced by
young mothers; and the third group received the booklets plus the
opportunity to participate in a discussion group at their child care
center, according to Miller.
meetings, they could identify and resolve their personal barriers and
suggest community-wide changes that would make it easier for mothers to
be physically active, Miller said.
beginning of the study, fewer than half of the women performed two and
a half hours of moderate activity per week, a guideline designated for
adequate physical activity, the study found. At eight weeks and five
months, the researchers checked the women’s activity levels again
and found that the women who received only booklets were no more likely
than the control group to be more physically active.
the booklet plus discussion group intervention "resulted in significant
short-term...increases in the proportion of mothers who were
categorized as sufficiently active for health benefits," said Miller,
adding that 59.9 percent met their target at the eight-week
mark.However, the improvement was not sustained at the five-month mark,
reports that the strategies developed in the discussion groups had at
least two measurable impacts on the women who became more active:
greater confidence that they could meet their activity target and a
greater sense that their partner supported their efforts.
researchers also believe that involving the women in the planning and
implementation "is likely to have fostered feelings of empowerment and
community ownership, as well as [increasing] the relevance of