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Title Moderate Exercise Appears to Be Best for Middle-Aged Women
Date 11 October 2011
Full Story Middle-aged women are among the least active and their level of physical activity declines with age. Understanding whether exercise of different intensities results in differential affective responses and whether these predict overall physical activity in midlife women is an important question to address.

Reporting at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in Washington, DC, Dr. Steriani Elavsky from Penn State University in University Park, PA, and her team studied 134 women, ages 40 to 60 (mean age 51) who were not on hormone therapy. The women completed two bouts of moderate and vigorous exercise. The vigorous exercise involved exercising on a treadmill to the point where they could no longer tolerate the intensity, and moderate exercise involved a 30-minute session, also on a treadmill, at a pace the women selected for themselves but that could be considered as moderate.

Each woman also wore an accelerometer, a small device the size of a match box, to track their energy expenditure and their time spent in activities of different intensities.

The study found that moderate intensity exercise caused women to feel more energized and confident that they could do more exercise in the future. It also decreased feelings of sadness, or negative affect, and feelings of anxiety to a greater extent than vigorous exercise.

Moderate physical activity was also much better for obese and out of shape women, Dr. Elavsky said.

Overall there were more general and more positive responses to moderate intensity exercise in terms of enhancing positive affect, feelings of energy, psychological wellbeing, and self-efficacy.

Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking, ballroom and line dancing, biking on level ground or with few hills, canoeing, general gardening including raking, trimming shrubs, sports such as baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis (doubles), and water aerobics.

Moderate-intensity exercises are "activities that would allow you to talk in short sentences while you are doing them, but would not allow you to sing," Dr. Elavsky said.
She added that she hopes her study will reaffirm to women that exercise can be a powerful way to enhance their wellbeing, and that they don't have to go all out with their level of exertion.

"The effects we observed were large and moderate intensity is sufficient, in fact, it is optimal. We also hope that clinicians will realize the importance of considering the proper exercise intensity when making recommendations about exercise. Moderate intensity exercise should be recommended for patients who are not meeting physical activity guidelines, or those who may be deconditioned, overweight, or obese," she said.

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