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The importance of continued exercise participation in quality of life and psychological well-being in previously inactive postmenopausal women: a pilot study

Asbury, Elizabeth A. MSc, PhD1; Chandrruangphen, Pornpat MBBS, MRCP2; Collins, Peter MD, FRCP1

doi: 10.1097/01.gme.0000196812.96128.e8
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Objective: Exercise and physical activity provide a wide range of health benefits for postmenopausal women, although the impact of maintained exercise participation on psychological well-being is unclear. An exploration of continued exercise participation in psychological well-being after a moderate-intensity exercise program in previously inactive postmenopausal women was therefore undertaken.

Design: Twenty-three healthy sedentary postmenopausal women (age 56 ± 4 years) were randomly assigned to two groups. All participants completed the Short Form-36, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and Health Anxiety Questionnaire (HAQ) and then began a 6-week walking program at 50% heart rate reserve defined by o2 treadmill testing. Post-intervention, all participants underwent repeat o2 treadmill testing and questionnaires. Group 1 was then instructed to continue exercising, whereas group 2 was instructed to desist for an additional 6-week period. On completion of the 6-week follow-up, participants completed a final set of questionnaires.

Results: Participants performed 97% of the prescribed 15-hour (900 minute) exercise program (875.1 ± 177.4 minutes) in an average of 26 ± 5 sessions. Total HAQ (P = 0.001), health worry (P = 0.001), fear of illness (P = 0.037), reassurance seeking behavior (P = 0.037), SF-36 well-being (P = 0.037), total HADS (P = 0.019), and HADS depression (P = 0.015) improved significantly following the exercise program. At follow-up, group 1 had lower HADS anxiety (P = 0.013), total HADS (P = 0.02), total HAQ (P = 0.03), and HAQ interference with life (P = 0.03) and significantly higher SF-36 energy (P = 0.01) than group 2.

Conclusions: Healthy postmenopausal women gain significant psychological benefit from moderate-intensity exercise. However, exercise participation must continue to maintain improvements in psychological well-being and quality of life.

Participation in moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to improve psychological morbidity and quality of life in a number of patient populations, although little research has been undertaken in healthy postmenopausal women. This pilot study explores the impact of a brisk walking program on healthy postmenopausal women and assesses the need for continued exercise participation to maintain any improvements in psychological morbidity and quality of life.

From the 1Department of Cardiac Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom, and 2Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals, Essex, United Kingdom.

Received June 17, 2005; revised and accepted November 8, 2005.

Address for correspondence: Elizabeth A. Asbury, MSc, PhD, Cardiac Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Dovehouse Street, London SW3 6LY, UK. E-mail: e.asbury@imperial.ac.uk.

©2006The North American Menopause Society