TV viewing and PA are regarded as separate forms of a sedentary lifestyle because they are related to different physical outcomes (Aadahl, Kjaer, & Jorgensen, 2007
). Although lack of PA in any domain (i.e., leisure-time, domestic, work-related and transport-related PA) may contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, most of studies have focused on LTPA when the relationship between PA and mental health was examined (Sieverdes, et al., 2012
; Teychenne, Ball, & Salmon, 2008a
). LTPA has been a stronger correlate than PA in other domains (Teychenne, et al., 2008b
). In this study, different factors related to two important behaviors related to sedentary living, i.e., excessive TV viewing and lack of LTPA, were identified among low-income mothers. Results showed that: (1) higher depressive symptoms and lower family functioning were associated with prolonged television viewing among mothers; and (2) depressive symptoms were marginally associated with lack of LTPA after controlling for covariates, but this association disappeared when perceived stress was added to the model.
Many researchers have examined factors related to sedentary behaviors among young adult women (Richmond, et al., 2010
), white women (Eyler & Vest, 2002
), and in men versus women (Anderson, et al., 1996
). Fahrenwald and colleagues implied that low-income mothers are at higher risk for sedentary living than other women (Fahrenwald, et al., 2004
), but little known research has focused specifically on low-income women who are typically more sedentary than their higher income counterparts (King, et al., 2010
; Yeager, Macera, & Merritt, 1993
). Therefore, preliminary findings of the present study fill an important potential gap in the literature examining factors related to sedentary living for low-income young mothers.
These findings contribute to the literature on sedentary lifestyles in three important ways. First, they further enhance the current evidence that sedentary lifestyles are linked to mental health disorder in women (Cairney, et al., 2003
; Fahrenwald, et al., 2004
; Hall, et al., 1985
). Second, they provide extended information on factors associated with sedentary lifestyle behaviors in low income mothers, which can be used to tailor interventions to their needs. Among the examined factors, maternal depressive symptoms stands out as a factor related to both TV viewing time and lack of LTPA. This pattern is consistent with prior research linking depressive symptoms with a number of unhealthy behaviors, such as physical inactivity (Allgower, Wardle, & Steptoe, 2001
) and excessive TV viewing (Teychenne, et al., 2010
) and suggest that depressive symptoms should be targeted in programs to reduce sedentary lifestyles in low-income mothers. Third, the significant link of family functioning with maternal TV viewing above and beyond mental health indicates that family environmental factors (Davison & Birch, 2001
; Eyler & Vest, 2002
; Sanderson, et al., 2002
) are additional critical intervention targets.
Perceived stress, however, was not associated with maternal TV viewing once depressive symptoms were taken into consideration. Given that stress was associated with maternal TV viewing in the univariate model, this implies that depressive symptoms may mediate the association between stress and TV viewing. While prior research supports a prospective longitudinal relationship between stress and depressive symptoms (Bromberger & Matthews, 1996
), evidence of the triad between depressive symptoms, perceived stress and maternal TV viewing, is lacking for low-income mothers. A prospective study is needed to draw conclusions regarding the casual path between mental health factors and maternal TV viewing.
More clearly identified factors associated with TV viewing than lack of LTPA indicate that low-income women with children might be more susceptible to excessive TV viewing compared to less participation of regular physical activity when they encountered some difficult events in lives. The lack of a relationship between family functioning and LTPA was consistent with a previous study which indicated that family characteristics were highly predictive of women’s physical activities of daily living but not physical activities in leisure time (Scharff, Homan, Kreuter, & Brennan, 1999
This study had several limitations. First, the use of a cross-sectional design prohibited assessment of the temporal and causal relations between outcome variables and their correlates. Second, the relatively small sample of low-income women recruited from one geographic region may have provided insufficient statistical power to detect some meaningful associations. Third, the non-probability sampling technique and potential participation biases might limit the generalization of the findings of this study to other low-income mothers. Fourth, self-reported measures may potentially have led to response bias and the accuracy of the measures based on the IPAQ may have been compromised given the modest values for concurrent and criterion validity of the IPAQ.
The findings of this study have a number of implications for interventions aiming to reduce sedentary living behaviors among low-income mothers. First, this study highlights factors that may play an important role in predicting sedentary lifestyle behaviors in low-income mothers including mothers’ mental health and family functioning. Second, this study affirmed the discrepancy in the factors related to TV viewing and lack of LTPA, which will help health practitioners to tailor programs to different purposes. Third, given that depressive symptoms were identified as strongly correlated with both forms of sedentary behavior, more attention should be given to improve and apply strategies to alleviate depressive symptoms among low-income mothers. However, to date no causal effects of correlates on low-income mothers’ sedentary lifestyle have been conducted. More research is needed in this area, and findings of this study suggest that the factors identified in the study may be a fruitful area of future inquiry and intervention.