Get active to boost quality of life while aging

A new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine has found that women who consistently adhere to physical activity guidelines throughout middle age have a higher health-related quality of life compared to those who do not meet the guidelines. The study, conducted by Binh Nguyen of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues, used data from 11,336 participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, collected at three-year intervals beginning in 1996.

The researchers classified participants based on whether they consistently met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of activity per week throughout the 15-year exposure period, started meeting the guidelines at age 55, 60, or 65, or never met the guidelines. Health-related quality of life was assessed using the physical health composite score (PCS) and mental health composite score (MCS) from the Short Form 36 Health Survey.

Higher Physical Health Scores for Active Women

The study found that, on average, women who consistently met physical activity guidelines and those who first started meeting the guidelines at age 55 had a three-point higher PCS compared to those who did not meet the guidelines. This effect remained significant even after controlling for socioeconomic factors and pre-existing health diagnoses. However, there was no significant association between physical activity and MCS.

“Combined with existing evidence, this study contributes to growing evidence of the benefits of maintaining or adopting an active lifestyle in mid-age,” the authors say. “An important public health message is that being active for as many years as possible, even if women start to meet physical activity guidelines in their mid-50s, could have important health benefits in terms of physical health, especially in physical functioning.”

The Importance of Staying Active Throughout Mid-Age

The authors emphasize the importance of women staying active throughout middle age to gain the most benefits for physical health in later life. “Our study shows that it’s important for women to be active throughout mid-age to gain the most benefits for physical health in later life. Ideally, women should increase their activity levels to meet the guidelines by age 55,” they add.

The study’s findings contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the long-term benefits of physical activity on health-related quality of life. While previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional studies and short-term randomized controlled trials, this longitudinal study provides valuable insights into the causal effects of exercise over an extended period.

As the world’s population continues to age, maintaining a high quality of life in later years becomes increasingly important. The results of this study underscore the significance of promoting physical activity among middle-aged women and encouraging them to adopt and maintain an active lifestyle. Public health initiatives and interventions targeting this demographic could have a substantial impact on improving health outcomes and quality of life in the long term.

Keyword: physical activity guidelines

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