According to an Australian study, as women take on different roles in their life, with marriage, motherhood retirement or widowhood, the amount of exercise they do also changes.
It is known that decreases in physical activity are associated with marriage and childbirth in young women, and declining health in older women.
However, the study also found that women who retired or who became widows tended to increase their physical activity level.
Overall, more than 40,000 women participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, with participants answering survey items on two occasions three years apart.
The researchers looked at three life phases-young womanhood, middle age and older age.
It was found that about one third of the younger (ages 18 to 23) and middle-aged (45 to 50) women, and a quarter of the older women (70 to 75), were active at both survey times.
"By recognizing the life events that are associated with decreases in activity, women could be alerted to the risk. For example, if you are an older woman with heart disease or diabetes, it is vitally important to stay active, as physical activity can help to manage these conditions," said lead author Dr. Wendy Brown, a professor at the University of Queensland.
For younger women, fitting exercise into expanding family obligations can seem overwhelming.
"Situations like marriage and children change the amount of expendable time during the day. It may vary culturally, but having children almost always decreases the feeling of self-priority for women," said Dr. Amy Eyler.
"Being widowed was associated with increasing physical activity in the mid-age women. This may reflect the fact that women use physical activity to cope with this event, or perhaps that they have more time to be active. However, young women who experienced harassment at work tended to increase their physical activity; it may be it was used as a way of coping with the stress of such events," said Brown.
The study has appeared in the latest issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.