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Physical Activity in Mid-Age and Older Women: Lessons from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

Wendy J. Brown and Toby Pavey

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) commenced in Australia in 1996 when researchers recruited approximately 40,000 women in three birth cohorts: 1973–1978, 1946–1951, and 1921–1926. Since then participants have completed surveys on a wide range of health issues, at approximately three-year intervals. This overview describes changes in physical activity (PA) over time in the mid-age and older ALSWH cohorts, and summarizes the findings of studies published to date on the determinants of PA, and its associated health outcomes in Australian women. The ALSWH data show a significant increase in PA during mid-age, and a rapid decline in activity levels when women are in their 80s. The study has demonstrated the importance of life stages and key life events as determinants of activity, the additional benefits of vigorous activity for mid-age women, and the health benefits of ‘only walking’ for older women. ALSWH researchers have also drawn attention to the benefits of activity in terms of a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes, as well as overall vitality and well-being. The data indicate that maintaining a high level of PA throughout mid and older age will not only reduce the risk of premature death, but also significantly extend the number of years of healthy life.

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Not All Play Equipment Is Created Equal: Associations Between Equipment at Home and Children’s Physical Activity

Katrina M. Moss, Annette J. Dobson, Kimberley L. Edwards, Kylie D. Hesketh, Yung-Ting Chang, and Gita D. Mishra

Participants and Procedures Mothers were recruited to the Mothers and their Children’s Health (MatCH) 28 study from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). 29 , 30 The ALSWH participants were randomly sampled from Australia’s universal health insurance system in 1996 and have completed

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Physical Activity Accumulated Across Adulthood and Resting Heart Rate at Age 41–46 Years in Women: Findings From the Menarche to Premenopause Study

Gregore I. Mielke, Jenny Doust, Hsiu-Wen Chan, and Gita D. Mishra

: Australian longitudinal study on women’s health . Int J Epidemiol . 2015 ; 44 ( 5 ): 1547a – 1547f . doi:10.1093/ije/dyv110 24. World Health Organization . WHO Technical Specifications for Automated Non-Invasive Blood Pressure Measuring Devices With Cuff . World Health Organization ; 2020 . 25. Brown

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Examination of Physical Activity, Organized Sport, and Sitting Time Among Women and Mothers From Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

Susan Paudel, Gita D. Mishra, Jenny Veitch, Gregore I. Mielke, and Kylie D. Hesketh

used data from the 1973 to 1978 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH; https://alswh.org.au/). ALSWH details have been reported previously. 33 Briefly, in 1996 the ALSWH recruited 3 age cohorts of Australian women (born 1973–1978, 1946–1951, and 1921–1926) from the

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“There’s More to Life than Just Walking”: Older Women’s Ways of Staying Healthy and Happy

Lynette Adamson and Glennys Parker

This study assessed a range of activities reported by older women in Australia. Women between 75 and 81 years of age (N = 3,955) from the older cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health responded to a request in a self-report survey for additional information concerning their health. Of these 3,955 women, 509 reported taking part in a variety of activities. Qualitative analysis of responses identified 55 coded categories of activities that were subsequently classified into four major themes: physical activities, creative pursuits, lifestyle, and social interaction. The data show that these older women are taking part in a wide range of activities.

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Walking Up to One Hour Per Week Maintains Mobility as Older Women Age: Findings from an Australian Longitudinal Study

Bonnie Field, Tom Cochrane, Rachel Davey, and Yohannes Kinfu

The aim of this study was to identify determinants of walking and whether walking maintained mobility among women as they transition from their mid-70s to their late 80s. We used 12 years of follow-up data (baseline 1999) from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (n = 10,322). Fifteen determinants of walking were included in the analysis and three indicators of mobility. Longitudinal data analyses techniques were employed. Thirteen of the 15 determinants were significant predictors of walking. Women in their mid-70s who walked up to 1 hr per week were less likely to experience loss of mobility in very old age, including reduced likelihood of using a mobility aid. Hence, older women who do no walking should be encouraged to walk to maintain their mobility and their independence as they age, particularly women in their 70s and 80s who smoke, are overweight, have arthritis, or who have had a recent fall.

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Correlates of Sitting Time in Working Age Australian Women: Who Should Be Targeted With Interventions to Decrease Sitting Time?

Jannique G. Z. van Uffelen, Kristiann C. Heesch, and Wendy Brown

Background:

While there is emerging evidence that sedentary behavior is negatively associated with health risk, research on the correlates of sitting time in adults is scarce.

Methods:

Self-report data from 7724 women born between 1973–1978 and 8198 women born between 1946–1951 were collected as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Linear regression models were computed to examine whether demographic, family and caring duties, time use, health, and health behavior variables were associated with weekday sitting time.

Results:

Mean sitting time (SD) was 6.60 (3.32) hours/day for the 1973–1978 cohort and 5.70 (3.04) hours/day for the 1946–1951 cohort. Indicators of socioeconomic advantage, such as full-time work and skilled occupations in both cohorts and university education in the mid-age cohort, were associated with high sitting time. A cluster of ‘healthy behaviors’ was associated with lower sitting time in the mid-aged women (moderate/high physical activity levels, nonsmoking, nondrinking). For both cohorts, sitting time was highest in women in full-time work, in skilled occupations, and in those who spent the most time in passive leisure.

Conclusions:

The results suggest that, in young and mid-aged women, interventions for reducing sitting time should focus on both occupational and leisure-time sitting.

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Prospective Relationships Between Physical Activity and Optimism in Young and Mid-aged Women

Toby G. Pavey, Nicola W. Burton, and Wendy J Brown

Background:

There is growing evidence that regular physical activity (PA) reduces the risk of poor mental health. Less research has focused on the relationship between PA and positive wellbeing. The study aims were to assess the prospective associations between PA and optimism, in both young and mid-aged women.

Methods:

9688 young women (born 1973–1978) completed self-report surveys in 2000 (age 22 to 27), 2003, 2006, and 2009; and 11,226 mid-aged women (born 1946–1951) completed surveys in 2001 (age 50–55) 2004, 2007, and 2010, as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Generalized estimating equation models (with 3-year time lag) were used to examine the relationship between PA and optimism in both cohorts.

Results:

In both cohorts, women reporting higher levels of PA had greater odds of reporting higher optimism over the 9-year period, (young, OR = 5.04, 95% CI: 3.85–6.59; mid-age, OR = 5.77, 95% CI: 4.76–7.00) than women who reported no PA. Odds were attenuated in adjusted models, with depression accounting for a large amount of this attenuation (young, OR = 2.00, 95% CI: 1.57–2.55; mid-age, OR = 1.64 95% CI: 1.38–1.94).

Conclusions:

Physical activity can promote optimism in young and mid-aged women over time, even after accounting for the negative effects of other psychosocial indicators such as depression.

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Life Course Epidemiology Applied to Physical Activity Research

Gregore Iven Mielke, Ding Ding, Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, Esther van Sluijs, and Pedro C. Hallal

for several decades, and contemporary cohorts established since 2010. These influential studies include the 1970 British Cohort Study, 9 the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, 10 the Pelotas (Brazil) Birth Cohort studies, 3 , 5 – 8 the Southampton Women’s Survey, 4 the Singapore

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The Relationship Between Habitual Physical Activity, Sitting Time, and Cognitive Function in Young Adult Women

Eka Peng Cox, Rebecca Cook, Nicholas O’Dwyer, Cheyne Donges, Helen Parker, Hoi Lun Cheng, Katharine Steinbeck, Janet Franklin, and Helen O’Connor

WJ . Weight gain, overweight, and obesity: determinants and health outcomes from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health . Curr Obes Rep . 2014 ; 3 ( 1 ): 46 – 53 . PubMed ID: 26626467 doi:10.1007/s13679-013-0077-4 26626467 10.1007/s13679-013-0077-4 19. Cook RL , O’Dwyer NJ