Purposeful exercise and lifestyle physical activity in the lives of young adult women: Findings from a diary study

Maureen O'Dougherty, Andrea Arikawa, Beth C. Kaufman, Mindy S. Kurzer, Kathryn H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is important to know how physical activity is incorporated in Women's lives to assess ways they can feasibly attain and maintain lifelong healthy practices. This study aimed to determine whether patterns of activity differed among young women whose physical activity met nationally recommended levels from those who did not. The sample was 42 women (aged 18-30 years) who had completed an exercise intervention (22 from the exercise group, 20 from the control group). Participants recorded pedometer steps and physical activities in diaries including form, duration and perceived exertion during 12 randomly assigned weeks over 26 weeks. We divided the sample into quartiles of moderate to vigorous physical activity to examine the composition of physical activities per quartile. Walking and shopping comprised the majority of physical activity in the lowest quartile of moderate to vigorous physical activity. In the second and third quartiles, walking and household/ childcare together comprised more than two-thirds of all activities. Only in the highest quartile was cardio activity (not including walking, shopping and household/childcare) the largest proportion of activity; this category stood alone as varying significantly across quartiles of moderate to vigorous physical activity (p <0.005). Among these young adult women, self-reported "lifestyle" physical activity was not sufficient to meet recommended levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The one-quarter who met recommended levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity did so largely through purposeful physical activities directly associated with exercise. Further research is needed to refine means of more fully measuring physical activities that women frequently perform, with particular attention to household work, childcare and shopping and to differing combinations of activities and levels of exertion by which diverse women can meet the recommended levels. The findings of this small scale study reinforce the ongoing benefit of recommending structured, planned physical activity at moderate and vigorous levels of intensity to young, healthy women to ensure they obtain the health benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-661
Number of pages20
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received August 17, 2009; revised October 21, 2009; accepted November 12, 2009. This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute’s Centers for Trans-disciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) (NCI Grant # U54CA116849). The authors would also like to thank Darin Erickson and Luis Espejo for their help with statistical analysis. Address correspondence to Maureen O’Dougherty, PhD, University of Minnesota, Food Science and Nutrition, 1334 Eckles Ave., St. Paul, MN. E-mail: modoughe@umn.edu


  • Diary Study
  • Lifestyle Physical Activity
  • Young Women


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