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BACKGROUND: Partnering and parenting are important life-stage transitions often accompanied by changes in social networks, roles and responsibilities. There have been no longitudinal studies examining associations of partnering and parenting with changes in domain-specific physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviours, and our understanding of whether these transitions are associated with weight change is limited. METHODS: Two thousand one hundred and twenty-four Australian adults from a national cohort (mean age 31.7 (2.7) years, 47.5% male) completed questionnaires at baseline (2004-06) and follow-up (2009-11), reporting marital and parental status. Weight (kg) was measured at baseline and self-reported at follow-up. PA and sedentary behaviours (sitting and television (TV) viewing) were self-reported in a subset (n = 1221). Linear regression estimated the longitudinal associations of parenting and partnering transitions with PA, sedentary behaviours and weight at follow-up, adjusted for baseline value of the respective outcome variable, age, education, follow-up duration and other life-stage transition. RESULTS: During the 5-year follow-up, 17.3% men and 12.9% women partnered, and 27.3% men and 19.1% women had their first child. Compared to staying not partnered, partnering was associated with an increase in total PA (177.5mins/week, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 18.0 to 337.0) among men and a greater weight gain (2.2 kg, 95% CI 0.6 to 3.7) among women. Compared to remaining child-free, having a first child was associated with greater reductions in total PA (- 123.9mins/week, 95% CI - 248.8 to 1.1) and TV viewing time (- 27.0mins/day, 95% CI - 50.6 to - 3.3) among men. Women who had their first child had greater weight gain (1.4 kg, 95% CI 0.1 to 2.7) but spent less time sitting (- 103.8mins/day, 95% CI - 135.5 to - 72.1) than those remaining child-free. For women, having additional children was associated with less sitting time (- 39.4mins/week, 95% CI - 66.0 to - 12.8) than having the same number of children. CONCLUSIONS: Partnering was associated with an increase in men's total PA and women's weight. Transitions into parenthood with a first child or additional children were associated with potentially health-impairing changes in weight and PA, but health-promoting changes in sedentary behaviours. Future PA promotion strategies should pay attention to men who had their first child to mitigate declining total PA.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act

Publication Date





Marriage, Parent, Physical activity, Sedentary behaviour, Weight, Young adult, Adult, Australia, Body Weight, Exercise, Female, Humans, Life Change Events, Male, Marriage, Parenting, Prospective Studies, Sedentary Behavior, Self Report, Spouses, Weight Gain