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Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Nov 15;156(10):945-53.

Vigorous leisure activity through women's adult life: the Women's Health Initiative Observational Cohort Study.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA.


This study described differences in vigorous activity participation recalled across the life span, assessed whether reports of past vigorous activity were associated with current participation, and examined factors associated with participation in current vigorous activity among women. After the exclusion of women aged 50-54 years, the study population included 71,837 multiethnic postmenopausal women aged 55-79 years who were participating in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Cohort Study, 1993-1998. Vigorous activity was assessed retrospectively for ages 18, 35, and 50 years and currently at enrollment into the study (median age, 65 years). Current participation in vigorous activity (>3 days/week) was low and consistent across racial/ethnic groups (13-16%). The prevalence of vigorous activity declined with age, with the largest decrease in vigorous activity occurring after age 50 years for all racial/ethnic groups. Current vigorous activity was generally higher among women with a lower body mass index, not currently smoking, in excellent general health, and of higher socioeconomic status across racial/ethnic groups. These data suggest that a lower prevalence of vigorous activity in the postmenopausal period is part of a complex of health-related attitudes and behaviors that transcends race/ethnicity. The perimenopausal period may be a critical juncture at which targeted and tailored interventions may help to achieve maintenance of physical activity into the postmenopausal period.

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