Helping pregnant women remain active – ‘Fit-4-Two’ intervention program evaluated

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Pregnancy is a critical risk period for sedentary behaviour and overweight development among women, boosting their chance of suffering chronic diseases and having a shorter life-span.

That’s according to CQUniversity PhD researcher Mel Hayman who has just gained a $20,000 grant to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of a behaviour-change intervention developed by Ms Hayman and her supporting research team, known as ‘Fit-4-2’.

CQUniversity’s Centre for Physical Activity Studies is providing $180,000 worth of in-kind support through the sharing of specialised computer software that will be used to develop and deliver the web-based intervention.

This research is considered cutting-edge, not only nationally but also internationally.

Participants recruited from the Rockhampton region will have their physical activity levels measured using accelerometers.

Over a 12-month period, the Central Queensland Medical Local (CQML) grant will enable Ms Hayman to test the usability and initial effectiveness of this website-delivered program, which is designed to promote physical activity levels among pregnant women.

“Most women are unaware of the benefits of regular physical activity and they have little knowledge of physical activity recommendations or available support services during their pregnancy,” Ms Hayman said.

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“Research clearly links health behaviours of the pregnant mother to the child. Children born to overweight/obese women are more likely to develop chronic diseases themselves, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

“Exercise is recognised as one of the best preventative treatments of chronic disease. Furthermore, active pregnant women have fewer visits to their doctors throughout their pregnancy, less obstetric intervention, and better birthing outcomes, while enjoying a better sense of emotional wellbeing.

“This project will educate and equip pregnant women with the necessary tools and support structures to enable them to become more physically active throughout their pregnancy, resulting in improved health and wellbeing, reducing chronic disease, and importantly decreasing the strain on the healthcare system.

“Upon completion and evaluation of the project, the Fit-4-Two website can be made available to CQML as a resource for enhancing physical activity levels amongst pregnant women.”

Ms Hayman says that, despite the benefits of being physically active during pregnancy, research conclusively shows that the majority of pregnant women do not receive any physical activity advice or support, with most insufficiently active to obtain the associated health benefits.

“Our current survey of medical practitioners shows that time and knowledge are key barriers to encouraging pregnant women to become more active.

“Additionally, knowledge and a lack of support are key barriers to exercise during pregnancy among pregnant women. Interventions that can be delivered in a time-efficient, low-cost and sustainable way have potential to overcome these barriers to improve health outcomes for pregnant women and their families.

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“Web-based physical activity interventions are effective, especially if they provide computer-tailoring (automatically-generated personalised feedback) and/or interactivity (eg. self-monitoring, goal setting tools), as they can provide more specific information and address the needs of the individual, while being more interesting and engaging. This type of intervention, however, has never been tested in an Australian pregnant women population.”

(Source: CQ University)

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Date Created: July 16, 2014