Health cognitions mediate physical (in)activity and walking in midlife women

Annemarie Walsh, Liz Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


This study sought to identify which of the many facilitators and barriers to physical activity (PA) and walking are most significant to changing midlife women's exercise behaviour, with a view to informing future interventions. A cross-sectional survey explored associations of PA and sedentary time with self-reported health value, health locus of control (HLOC) and physical and mental health. Open-ended questions were included to elicit barriers and facilitators to walking. A sample of 295 women, aged 35–55, was recruited via women's groups, social media, online forums, and posters in doctors’ surgeries, and completed the survey online. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, t-test, analysis of variance and regression analyses. The low activity levels reported underline the urgency of developing interventions for this population. Results suggest that the key factors associated with higher activity levels are having a more internal HLOC, better mental health and placing greater value on health. While health cognitions may therefore be one important factor to target, these must be tackled in the context of women's other barriers to and facilitators of exercise. Thematic analysis of the open-ended questions revealed that the key barrier to walking was women's busy lives and their many competing priorities and that the most important facilitators were mental health and social connection. Overall, results suggest that, rather than emphasizing physical health and activity targets, practitioners should seek to make walking more relevant to women by emphasizing mental wellbeing and self-care, and more enjoyable by focusing on social and family-based walking interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
Early online date16 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jan 2020


  • physical activity
  • sedentary time
  • walking
  • midlife women
  • barriers
  • facilitators
  • menopause
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary time
  • Midlife women
  • Walking
  • Barriers
  • Facilitators


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