Although several studies have previously linked depression in middle-aged women to low self-reported physical activity, a new study suggests that low upper and lower body fitness may cause them to experience depression and severe anxiety.
The study published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society assesses objective measures of physical performance in relation to depression and anxiety in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women.
Evaluating more than 1,100 women between the ages of 45 and 69, study results suggest that 15% of participants, especially younger ones, reported depression and/or anxiety.
The study observed significant associations of objective measures of physical performance with depression and anxiety.
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Specifically, they found that low upper body strength (grip strength) and low lower body strength (longer time to complete the repeated standing chair test) were associated with symptoms of depression and / or high anxiety.
In particular, depression and anxiety are common symptoms in middle-aged women. Strength training is an important health behavior for aging women because it helps maintain strength and function and reduces the risk of chronic disease. As depression can lead to disability, reduced quality of life, mortality and heart disease, researchers felt it was important to identify potentially modifiable risk factors that could reduce morbidity and mortality.
According to the researchers, future trials are needed to determine whether strengthening exercises that improve physical performance might also help reduce depression and anxiety in middle-aged women.
In many studies covering a wide range of questions, researchers have focused on exercise, as well as the broader concept of physical activity. Exercise is any form of planned, structured, repetitive, and performed physical activity intended to improve health or fitness. So, while all exercise is physical activity, not all physical activity is exercise. Previous studies have examined the role of physical activity in many groups – men and women, children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, people with disabilities and women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
A 2018 longitudinal population study of Swedish women found that high cardiovascular fitness in midlife was associated with a reduced risk of later dementia. He said aerobic exercise programs aimed at improving cardiovascular fitness appear to have moderate effects on cognitive function in healthy older adults.