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U Study Shows Benefits of Mothers and Daughters Exercising Together


Women who find it hard to stick to an exercise routine don't need to look very far for help—just across the dinner table. A recent study by University of Utah researchers shows that women who enlist the help of their mothers or daughters exercised more regularly and with better results.

"Women and teenage girls in general need to increase their physical activities. We wanted to see if teaming up mothers and daughters will help them do it," said Lynda Ransdell, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Health's Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the study's principal investigator.

The research was conducted over a three-month period. It involved two groups of mothers and daughters: a community-based group with 20 participants and a home-based group with 14 participants. The mothers were between 31 and 60 years old; the daughters were 14-17. Prior to the study, they all lived sedentary lifestyles or were infrequently active. The community-based group met three times a week at a large fitness facility. Its routine lasted 60-75 minutes and included aerobics, weight training, stretching, and abdominal strengthening exercises.

The home-based group received a packet containing a calendar of recommended activities similar to those of the other group and pictures of how to do various exercises. Participants in this group exercised on their own at home.

At the end of the three-month period, participants were tested in aerobics (by walking a mile), muscular strength and endurance (push-ups and sit-ups), and flexibility (sit-and-reach test). Percent body fat was assessed through bioelectrical impedence analysis (BIA), a technique involving a tiny electrical current passing through the body. A lean person records current faster on the BIA machine.

Findings show that both groups significantly increased the time they spent exercising and improved their physical fitness. These positive changes were due to high adherence rates, which Ransdell attributed to bonding among mother-daughter pairs and between mothers and daughters.

The mothers showed more improvement than their daughters--significantly enhancing their muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and aerobic capacity. Daughters in both groups improved their muscular endurance. "This may be because the daughters were in better shape than their mothers to begin with. In effect, the daughters had less room for improvement," said Ransdell.

The study also concluded that the pairs exercised just as effectively whether at home or in a gym. This finding led researchers to recommend home-based exercise programs because they are more cost-effective.

Research results were published in the January 2003 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Aside from Ransdell, the other investigators were: Laurie Moyer-Mileur, Ph.D.,R.D., research associate professor in the medical schools Department of Pediatrics; Barry Shultz, Ph.D., associate professor and graduate studies director in College of Healths Department of Exercise and Sport Science; Alison Taylor and Darcie Oakland, former graduate students in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science; and Jenny Schmidt, former undergraduate student in the department.