Are mothers more exposed to a sedentary lifestyle than childless women?

Are mothers more exposed to a sedentary lifestyle than childless women?

Implement targeted interventions to enable mothers to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle after childbirth. Here are the recommendations issued by a team of researchers following work highlighting a deficit in physical activity among women who have children, at least compared to those who do not. Mothers may be more likely to fail to meet international recommendations for physical activity.

Becoming a mother is far from easy, and that's without taking into account the lifestyle changes that this status can bring about in the short and long term. This is what emerges from a new study carried out by a team of international researchers, who set out to determine the proportion of mothers and women without children who are currently not meeting international recommendations for physical activity in Denmark. All based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the global health authority, “physical activity refers to all the movements that we perform, particularly in the context of leisure, at the workplace or to move from one place to another“. And to specify: “Moderate or sustained physical activity has beneficial effects on health“. Based on its recommendations, an adult aged 18 to 64 should engage in moderate-intensity endurance activity for at least 150 to 300 minutes per week, or endurance activity of sustained intensity at least 75 to 150 minutes per week Guidelines that were not followed by one in four adults worldwide in 2022, with an impact on the health of those affected.

Light physical activity

To carry out their work, mainly based on the physical activity of women with and without children, the researchers analyzed data from 27,668 women aged 16 to 40, of whom 20,022 were ultimately included in the study. Data from the Danish National Health Survey 2021, collecting information on participants' health, were linked with childbirth data from the Danish National Birth Registry. The objective is to determine the proportion of women with and without children adhering or not to the guidelines of the World Health Organization.

Published in the journal Public Health, the study suggests that Danish mothers are at greater risk (+24%) of not getting enough physical exercise compared to women in the same age group who have never given birth. In detail, among the participants in the study, 63.8% of mothers did not adhere to the WHO guidelines, compared to 51.3% of women who did not have children. The authors point out that women with children tend to engage in light exercise, such as walking or cycling, that is, activities that are not of moderate or sustained intensity.

Fatigue, lack of time and support

Although scientists have not identified formal causes for this reduced physical activity among mothers, they believe that it could be linked to a lack of time, fatigue or a lack of energy, or even exhaustion. , but also a deficit in social support and childcare services. “For most women, pregnancy and childbirth represent a major change for their body. Many mothers struggle to understand how and what they can do in terms of physical activity in their 'new body' after giving birth. Other barriers, as the literature shows, can be lack of time and sleep, which, along with breastfeeding and logistical challenges, can lead to a deprioritization of physical activity“, explains Solvej Videbæk Bueno, main author of the study, in a press release.

The researchers believe that the conclusions of this research should be used to implement targeted interventions for women who have given birth with a view to improving their level of physical activity, and by extension increasing their chances of maintaining good health. . “Every year, around 60,000 women give birth in Denmark. This is therefore a very important group of the population who are at increased risk of not complying with international recommendations. (…) This is why I think it is important that we focus on mothers as a distinct target group for future efforts to promote physical activity among the population“, concludes Solvej Videbæk Bueno.

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