Women who were given only written information on how to increase physical activity were no more likely to exercise than women who did not receive the literature, reports lead author Yvette Miller, of the University of Queensland in Australia. But women who received the information and also attended discussion groups to develop personal exercise strategies were more likely to achieve exercise goals.
"Having children in the household represents a life stage when women understandably find it difficult to engage in leisure-time physical activity," Miller says in a prepared statement.
Miller and fellow researchers recruited 554 mothers, averaging 33 years old, who had at least one child enrolled at a childcare center. Strategies devised in the discussion groups included organizing mother-friendly aerobics classes with available childcare and encouraging local organizations to schedule activities at times convenient for new mothers.
Miller reports that the strategies had at least two measurable impacts: greater confidence that the women could meet their activity targets, and a greater sense that fellow group members supported their efforts.
A disappointing finding, Miller says, is that participants' interest in exercising appeared to ebb significantly when the women were checked again after participating in the program for five months.
The findings appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
For recommendations on an exercise plan for new mothers, visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.