UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Reconciling relationships with physical activity: a qualitative study of women’s postnatal physical activity decision-making Liva, Sarah J; Hall, Wendy A.; Oliffe, John Lindsay


Background: Challenges with engaging in postnatal physical activity can negatively affect the health of women and their families. This study investigated women’s physical activity decision-making processes and strategies to support their physical activity as part of a healthy postpartum transition. Methods: Thirty healthy women with infants aged 2.5–12 months completed 3-day activity diaries and an individual interview. Using Glaser and Charmaz’s grounded theory methodology, the core category, reconciling relationships with physical activity, was constructed, which explained women’s processes of postnatal physical activity decision-making. Results: Through reconciling relationships with physical activity, women discerned the types of physical activity they were comfortable pursuing at various points in the postpartum transition. Based on the meaning physical activity held for participants and their views about risks, supports, and resources, women gauged their capacity and the workability of their physical activity desires. Most women were uncertain of their capacity (physical, emotional) to return to physical activity and viewed the achievement of several or all of their desired physical activities as unworkable. Only a small group of women fully pursued the desirable physical activities they viewed as important for their well-being. Women adjusted the strategies they used to achieve physical activity when their expectations of capacity and workability did not align with their experiences. Some women lacked access to resources or supportive messaging about postpartum physical activity and downgraded their physical activity pursuit after negative personal physical or childcare experiences. Conclusions: Women can benefit from discussions about physiological birth recovery and navigating community and peer resources to support physical activity access and the safe return to physical activity following birth.

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)