Understanding physical activity in the lives of women in mid-life
Despite the increased awareness and public campaigns promoting physical activity and its associated health benefits, women in mid-life are still not participating in regular physical activity. It cannot be assumed that a woman's experiences of physical activity early in her lifespan will reflect the same qualities and components throughout; therefore, it is important to accurately represent the physical activity needs for this cohort of women. Little research exists regarding physical activity patterns for women in mid-life and how these relate to both activity patterns and health in later years. This qualitative project was designed to explore and describe the experiences and interpretations of physical activity as held and practiced by women in mid-life. Qualitative research compliments the feminist theory employed as the theoretical orientation used to guide this research. Woman--centred interviews were used as--method to capture the experience of physical activity as voiced by the women themselves. Fifteen interviews were conducted over a period of seven months. Data analysis revealed the factors that "moved" women away and toward physical activity throughout the life course. In addition, the data analysis process gave rise to five main themes: Defining physical activity--what's all the fuss about? Barriers to physical activity--the saboteurs, Pressures to participate in physical activity, Outcomes of "inadequate" exercise and, The forgotten cohort. The findings of this study suggest that major life events across a woman's lifespan determine patterns of physical activity and inactivity. Secondly, a "user friendly" definition of physical activity is offered for women in mid-life, one that addresses the range of skill levels, comfort level physical ability and overall health that is represented within this cohort of women.