Moderate Physical Activity Best for Mood in Middle-Aged Women

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Middle-aged women may reap psychological benefits from participating in moderate intensity exercise, researchers suggested.

According to data presented here, menopausal women aged 40 to 60 years who were not taking hormone therapy had more significant general and positive responses, such as considerably improved positive affect, feelings of energy, psychological well-being and self-efficacy, when participating in moderate intensity exercises. Moderate physical activity also reduced anxiety more in asymptomatic women who were fit, as compared with their less fit, symptomatic counterparts.

Responses to vigorous exercise, however, were more diverse. Overweight or obese women with symptoms of menopause experienced smaller enhancements in mood after engaging in more intense physical activity when compared with normal-weight, asymptomatic women. In addition, these women experienced significantly decreased calmness after vigorous exercise, according to the researchers.

The study focused on 134 women who completed a bout of vigorous exercise and 121 of the same women who completed a bout of exercise at a self-selected, but moderate, pace on a treadmill. The researchers examined psychological responses before, during and after each bout of physical activity, and at 20 and 40 minutes after the moderate bout. Data presented, however, only pertained to pre- and post-exercise responses. Intensity level was monitored using heart rate, perceived exertion and oxygen uptake, and overall physical activity levels were measured through accelerometry during a 2-week period.

“From a mood-enhancing perspective, these results indicate that moderate intensity exercise should be promoted for midlife women,” the researchers concluded in their abstract. “Deconditioned, overweight or obese women are likely to respond to vigorous exercise less positively, creating the potential for discouraging women from pursuing and maintaining regular physical activity.”

The researchers also noted that women should select forms of physical activity that they enjoy doing.

Disclosure:The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

For more information:

  • Elavsky S. P-3. Presented at: the 22nd Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society; Sept. 21-24, 2011; Washington, D.C.

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