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How do relationship breakups impact physical activity?

Researchers found that changes in marital status affect levels of physical activity in men and women differently.

How do relationship breakups impact physical activity?

A relationship breakup can change how much you walk.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 60 percent of the world's population is not active enough.

Physical activity is essential for health and well-being.

It protects against chronic conditions by regulating weight and improving the body's use of insulin.

Physical activity is especially important for heart health because it benefits blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and the health of blood vessels.

Physical activity also helps prevent inflammation, which may lead to cardiovascular disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

Some people enjoy physical activity, while for others getting active can be a challenge. Chronic conditions, fatigue, and mood are all factors that can affect lifestyle choices.

Changes in marital status create new routines and habits, which may also impact physical activity.

The impact of relationship changes

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study (YFS) is a project conducted to determine cardiovascular risks. A study carried out as part of the YFS found that changes in relationships have links to physical activity; interestingly, being male or female seems to change the impact.

"It seems that the changes in relationships affect the physical activity of men and women differently," says Kasper Salin, a postdoctoral researcher from the Faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, who contributed to the study.

The researchers published their findings in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

During a 4-year follow-up, researchers found that men who had recently divorced registered fewer non-exercise steps than some other men.

Women who had remarried during the follow-up period also saw a significant reduction in the total number of steps, compared with women who had a stable relationship.

The study also analyzed the role of the participants' socioeconomic position during the 4-year period. Researchers noticed a significant increase in the aerobic steps for men and women in the highest social class.

Aerobic steps are steps taken during non-stop activities lasting for at least 10 minutes at a pace of 60 steps per minute or above.

Follow-up study showed increased walking

The participants in the study provided pedometer data in 2007 and 2011. Often, studies on physical activity involve the use of questionnaires, but according to Salin, "The pedometer used in this study provided a more reliable picture of overall activity than, for example, a traditionally used questionnaire."

Researchers noticed a positive trend during the 4-year follow-up. At the beginning of the study in 2007, 19 percent of the participants achieved the recommended 10,000 daily steps. By 2011, this had risen to 25 percent. But the results also showed that the number of steps varied depending on a person's socioeconomic position.

"The monitoring period, however, showed that the rise in the number of steps focused on the highest social classes, especially in aerobic steps," says Salin.

Social class affects a person's quality of life and habits, but it is important for everybody, regardless of their socioeconomic position, to make a little space for physical activity on a daily basis to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, especially heart disease.

The researchers who conducted the study recommend that people add aerobic steps to their daily routine. A person does not have to do all these steps at one time but can build them up throughout the day.

"Actual exercising is not needed in order to add steps to daily life. Instead, attention should be paid to everyday choices. You could walk instead of driving or take stairs instead of an elevator."

Kasper Salin

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