Although several studies have previously linked depression in midlife women with self-reported low physical activity, a new study suggests that weak upper and lower body fitness can cause serious depression and anxiety in them.
The study published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society evaluates objective measures of physical performance in relation to depression and anxiety in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women.
Evaluating more than 1,100 women aged between 45 to 69 years, the findings of the study suggested that 15 per cent of participants, especially those of younger age, reported depression and or anxiety.
The study observed significant associations of objective physical performance measures with depression and anxiety.
Specifically, they found that weak upper body strength (handgrip strength) and poor lower body strength (longer duration to complete the repeated chair stand test) were associated with elevated depression and/or anxiety symptoms.
Notably, depression and anxiety are prevalent symptoms experienced by midlife women. Strength training is an important health behaviour for ageing women as it helps maintain strength and function and reduces risk for chronic diseases. As depression can cause 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 will be needed to determine whether strengthening exercises that improve physical performance might similarly help reduce depression and anxiety in midlife women.
In many studies covering a wide range of issues, researchers have focused on exercise, as well as on the more broadly defined concept of physical activity. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and performed with the goal of improving health or fitness. So although 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, teens, adults, older adults, people with disabilities, and women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
A 2018-longitudinal population study in Swedish women observed that a high cardiovascular fitness in midlife was associated with a decreased risk of subsequent dementia. It stated that aerobic exercise programs aiming at improving cardiovascular fitness seem to have moderate effects on cognitive function among healthy older persons.