Physical Fitness Equals Happiness for Older People

Older people who are more fit and more lean may also have a better outlook on life than their less active, fatter counterparts, Johns Hopkins researchers report.

The report, published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, studied 82 people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

Rearchers evaluated 38 men and 44 women ages 55 to 75 who signed up for an exercise program. The participants had mild hypertension but were otherwise healthy. Researchers assessed the participants’ fitness levels during treadmill testing, asked them questions about their routine levels of physical activity, recorded their muscle strength during weight-lifting exercises and measured their percentages of body fat. Participants then completed two questionnaires regarding their mental health and mood.

The results? Those who were more fit said they were less tired, less depressed, less angry, less tense and in an overall better mood than those who were less fit. By contrast, participants with higher percentages of body fat said they were more depressed, more angry, more tense and not as happy.

“The participants can be categorized as ‘typical’ older Americans – mildly overweight, sedentary and with some risk factors for coronary heart disease,” says Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., senior author of the study and director of clinical exercise physiology. “Although they were not in a regular exercise or weight loss program, even small amounts of physical activity and slight increases in fitness were linked to better quality of life and mood.”

CITATION: Stewart, K.J. et al, “Are Fitness, Activity and Fatness Associated with Health-Related Quality of Life and Mood in Older Persons?”, Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, March/April 2003; Vol. 23: pages 115-121.

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