Physical activity during life events and transitions: AHA scientific statement

Achieving recommended levels of physical activity is important for optimal cardiovascular health. Emerging evidence suggests that physical activity fluctuates throughout the life course and may change significantly in response to commonly experienced life events or transitions. Life events are discrete and mark the beginning or ending of a certain status, and life transitions can be defined as periods of adjustment that are often linked to a life event. Both life events and transitions are often characterized by some disruption or change in routines or resources. On the opposite, establishing good physical activity and sedentary behavior habits during life events and transitions could shape lifelong levels of these behaviors.

Therefore, on December, 1 the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a new scientific statement focusing on physical activity during these events and transitions. The statement was published online in the Circulation journal. The document consists of two parts; Part I encompasses an overview of the evidence suggesting changes in physical activity and sedentary behavior across life events and transitions, and Part II provides guidance for health care professionals or public health workers to identify changes and promote physical activity during life events and transitions. In the first Part, the writing group examined data on 17 different life events or transitions and found evidence that physical activity levels may decline during nine events: beginning a new school (elementary, middle, high school, or college); a first job or career change; a marriage or civil union; pregnancy; parenting; retirement; or moving into a long-term care facility.

The second part of the document provides tools for health care professionals to assess physical activity using simple questions or wearable devices, as well as strategies to express compassion while discussing life transitions and to initiate conversations about physical activity. Last, resources for life phase–specific, tailored physical activity support are included.  

Future development and testing of interventions designed specifically to combat declines in physical activity or increases in sedentary behavior during life events and transitions is needed to establish or maintain healthy levels of these cardiovascular health–promoting behaviors.

The Science News section of the National Medical Society of Preventive Cardiology website says goodbye to you until the holidays are over. We wish you joy, health and optimal physical activity during this important transition period and in the upcoming New Year!



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