Even modest amounts of exercise can improve older women's quality of life, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among more than 400 overweight postmenopausal women, those who took up an exercise program for six months showed gains in their physical and mental well-being - measured by factors such as daily energy levels, social life, emotional well-being and physical pain.
The more the women exercised, the greater the improvements in quality of life, the researchers report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
It is often said that exercise can improve a person's energy, stress levels and overall sense of well-being, but now there is proof of that from a clinical trial, according to the researchers.
"This research indicates that exercise will improve overweight women's quality of life, even if they do not lose substantial amounts of weight," lead researcher Dr Corby Martin, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said.
How the study was done
The study included 430 postmenopausal women who were overweight and sedentary at the outset. Martin and his colleagues randomly assigned each woman to either remain inactive for the six-month study, or join one of three exercise groups.
Women in all three groups regularly had supervised exercise sessions, during which they walked on a treadmill or pedaled a stationary bike. The difference was in the amount of exercise each group logged: one averaged one hour and 15 minutes of exercise per week; the second got two hours and 20 minutes; and the third averaged three hours per week.
The women completed a standard questionnaire on health-related quality of life at the beginning and end of the study. Compared with the sedentary group, Martin's team found, women in all three exercise groups showed improvements in quality of life. "Controlling for weight change did not attenuate the exercise/quality-of-life association," they report.
The group that exercised the most made the greatest gains in physical and mental well-being. Still, being active for as little as one hour and 15 minutes per week can make a difference in a person's quality of life, Martin said.
The public health implications of that are "significant," he and his colleagues write. While there is often a great deal of focus on helping people live longer, the researchers point out, maximizing their quality of life should also be a priority. – (Reuters Health, February 2009)