Objective: Although regular physical activity is an effective secondary prevention strategy for patients with a chronic disease, it is unclear whether patients change their daily physical activity after being diagnosed. Therefore, the aims of this study were to (1) describe changes in levels of physical activity in middle-aged women before and after diagnosis with a chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, asthma, breast cancer, arthritis, depression); and to (2) examine whether diagnosis with a chronic disease affects levels of physical activity in these women.
Methods: Data from 5 surveys (1998-2010) of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) were used. Participants (N = 4840, born 1946-1951) completed surveys every three years, with questions about diseases and leisure time physical activity. The main outcome measure was physical activity, categorized as: nil/sedentary, low active, moderately active, highly active.
Results: At each survey approximately half the middle-aged women did not meet the recommended level of physical activity. Between consecutive surveys, 41%-46% of the women did not change, 24%-30% decreased, and 24%-31% increased their physical activity level. These proportions of change were similar directly after diagnosis with a chronic disease, and in the years before or after diagnosis. Generalized estimating equations showed that there was no statistically significant effect of diagnosis with a chronic disease on levels of physical activity in women.
Conclusion: Despite the importance of physical activity for the management of chronic diseases, most women did not increase their physical activity after diagnosis. This illustrates a need for tailored interventions to enhance physical activity in newly diagnosed patients.