November 17, 2005

Lack of Time, Energy Keep Women from Exercise

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK -- Time pressures and lack of motivation may be keeping many women from getting regular exercise and making other heart-healthy lifestyle changes, a new study suggests.

The survey of 120 women ages 35 to 60 found that 59 percent felt that family commitments often kept them from exercising, while nearly as many said they were "just too lazy" to exercise. Still, half of the women thought that if they had more encouragement to make lifestyle changes, they might be able to do it.

Lack of time due to work and lack of support and motivation to make diet changes were among the other factors that the women said kept them from a lifestyle makeover.

Though the study found a number of potential barriers to a heart-healthy lifestyle, it is "significant" that family commitments were the top reason women failed to exercise, study author Dr. Joanne L. Thanavaro told Reuters Health.

Helping women to better manage their time and delegate some family responsibilities may allow them to fit in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day, according to Thanavaro, an associate professor of nursing at Barnes-Jewish College of Nursing and Allied Health in St. Louis.

She reports her findings in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

The study included 120 women at three primary care practices who were asked whether particular barriers kept them from exercising, changing their diets or quitting smoking - all vital factors in preventing or delaying heart disease.

For the most part, the women found regular exercise to be the most challenging health habit, mostly due to lack of time, energy or self-discipline.

Thanavaro noted that women, more so than men, may be more likely to exercise when it involves some social interaction. So exercising with a friend, or finding a class they enjoy, may help women stick with a workout routine.

Though smoking was a less common problem than inactivity in this study, 22 percent of the women did say they lacked the "willpower" to kick the habit.

It's known, Thanavaro pointed out, that women generally find it harder to quit smoking than men do. So doctors and other healthcare providers need to be more aggressive in helping female smokers, she said.

Women who want to make lifestyle changes but are finding it tough - whether starting an exercise regimen or quitting smoking - should find a healthcare provider who will help them overcome any barriers, according to Thanavaro.

In this study, women at the one medical practice with a nurse practitioner cited fewer barriers to lifestyle changes.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced education and training that allows them to provide many of the same services a doctor would. They specialize, Thanavaro said, in giving the kind of "holistic" care that may help women overcome obstacles to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, November 2005.