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Study Says Walking Reduces Anxiety in Older Women

Elderly woman and middle-aged woman going for a walk
Researchers found that high levels of physical activity were the most beneficial to postmenopausal women. They reported lower levels of perceived stress than those who did not exercise.

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November 29, 2011

Exercise has a double benefit for senior women, including lessening menopausal symptoms and sustaining better overall health. Walking with a companion – a friend, family member or CAREGiverSM — is an even better way to relieve stress and build a healthier outlook.

Q. As a 68-year-old widow living alone, my anxiety levels seem to have increased since menopause. I don’t really want to go on medications. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, two: companionship and walking. A recent study says a brisk walk can reduce a variety of psychological symptoms such as anxiety, stress and depression.*

“With the aging population, physical activity represents one way for women to stay mentally healthy,” said Temple University public health researcher Deborah Nelson, Ph.D, the study’s lead author. “Physical activity can help throughout the menopausal transition and afterwards.”

The study followed 380 Philadelphia women for more than eight years. The women reported their physical activity level and menopausal symptoms, which included stress, anxiety, depression and hot flashes.

When it came to stress, researchers found that high levels of physical activity were the most beneficial to postmenopausal women. They reported lower levels of perceived stress than those who did not exercise.

“In the urban setting, these women walked outside on city blocks or in shopping malls. Groups could organize to take walks after dinner. It didn’t require going to the gym,” Nelson said. “You don’t have to run 20 miles a week to reap the benefits of exercise. If you stick to a moderate-paced walking schedule, it can keep your body-mass index down and lower the risk of stress, anxiety and depression,” she added.

Another way to help is companionship. Daily human contact can improve your stress level. Someone with whom you can enjoy activities and who will support you in your quest to remain independent often will improve your mental outlook, too.

If you don’t have a network of family and friends, consider contacting Home Instead Senior Care®. The company makes every effort to match seniors with CAREGiversSM of similar interests. Many CAREGivers are older adults themselves who enjoy activities such as walking. A diversion can be just what you need for better mental health.

*Source: Temple University. “Walk Away Menopausal Anxiety, Stress And Depression.” Press release online at http://www.temple.edu/newsroom/2007_2008/01/stories/menopause.htm.

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