Trajectories of physical activity from mid to older age in women: 21 years of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

Yuta Nemoto*, Wendy J. Brown, Gregore Iven Mielke

*Corresponding author for this work

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Women’s physical activity varies across the adult lifespan. However, changes in physical activity among mid-aged women are not well understood. We analysed 21 years of data from women born in 1946–51 to identify: (1) trajectories of physical activity in the transition from mid- to old-age and (2) determinants of different physical activity trajectories. 


Data were from the 1946–51 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (N = 10,371). Surveys were mailed at three-year intervals from 1998 (age 47–52) to 2019 (age 68–73) to collect data on physical activity, sociodemographic factors (country of birth, area of residence, educational attainment, marital status, income management, paid work hours, living with children age < 18, providing care), health indicators (menopause status, BMI, physical and mental health, chronic conditions), and health behaviours (smoking, alcohol status). Group-based trajectory modelling was used to identify trajectories of physical activity. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to examine the determinants of physical activity trajectories. 


Five trajectories were identified: Low-stable (13.3% of participants), Moderate-stable (50.4%), Moderate-increasing (22.2%), High-declining (7.7%), and High-stable (6.6%). Sociodemographic characteristics (area of residence, education, income management, living with children, and providing care) were determinants of physical activity trajectories, but the strongest factors were BMI, physical and mental health. Women who were overweight/obese and had poor physical and mental health were less likely to be in the High-stable group than in any other group. Changes in these variables (increasing BMI, and declining physical and mental health) and in marital status (getting married) were positively associated with being in trajectories other than the High-stable group. 


Although most women maintained physical activity at or above current guidelines, very low physical activity levels in the Low-stable group, and declining levels in the High-declining group are concerning. The data suggest that physical activity promotion strategies could be targeted to these groups, which are characterised by socioeconomic disadvantage, high (and increasing) BMI, and poor (and worsening) physical and mental health. Removing barriers to physical activity in these women, and increasing opportunities for activity, may reduce chronic disease risk in older age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


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