Top Things to Know: Supporting Physical Activity in Patients and Populations During Life Events and Transitions

Published: December 01, 2021

  1. Cardiovascular health-promoting physical activity levels can vary throughout the life course.
  2. Certain life events, which mark the beginning and end of a certain status, and life transitions, which are periods of adjustment which often accompany a life event, have been linked to decreases in physical activity. Both life events and transitions occur throughout the life course.
  3. The effect of life events and transitions on physical activity level may vary between different population subgroups. For example, pregnancy and parenting might have a bigger effect on physical activity levels in women.
  4. Sedentary behavior, an emerging cardiovascular disease risk factor, may also change during life events and transitions.
  5. Correlates of adequate physical activity can vary depending on the life stage (childhood, adulthood, older age) and event/transition (pregnancy versus retirement). Correlates of physical activity span the socioecological model and include factors at the individual, social, environmental, and policy levels.
  6. Public health workers should consider the design of the built environment to promote physical activity opportunities throughout life events and transitions.
  7. Health care professionals should ask their patients about life events as well as physical activity during patient encounters using a brief tool to estimate whether a patient is meeting physical activity recommendations.
  8. Conversations regarding physical activity counseling for patients can be tailored and may involve behavioral counseling. A variety of health care professionals, such as medical assistants and health/lifestyle coaches, can help provide physical activity counseling.
  9. Wearable devices are commercially available and can be used by individuals to track and promote physical activity throughout life events and transitions. Organizations, such as schools, workplaces, faith communities, and assisted living centers, can encourage regular monitoring of physical activity to identify unfavorable changes.
  10. Multiple, reputable resources that health care professionals can use to promote physical activity during life events and transitions are listed in the statement.


Lane-Cordova AD, Jerome GJ, Paluch AE, Bustamante EE, LaMonte MJ, Pate RR, Weaver RG, Webber-Ritchey KJ, Barone Gibbs B; on behalf of the Committee on Physical Activity of the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health. Supporting physical activity in patients and populations during life events and transitions: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print December 1, 2021]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001035