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Physically fit, leaner older people are happier, study says

Older people who are more fit and have less body fat may also have a better outlook on life than their less active, less lean counterparts, according to a Johns Hopkins study.

The report, presented May 30 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore, studied 36 people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

"It is well known that being more fit and more lean is associated with better physical health," says Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., senior author of the study and director of cardiac rehabilitation and clinical exercise physiology at Hopkins. "In this study of older men and women, we showed that being more fit and having less fat also is associated with better mental health and mood."

Stewart and colleagues evaluated 14 men and 22 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, 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.

"We encourage all older people to increase their levels of fitness and maintain a healthy body weight not only for their physical health but also for their mental well-being," says Stewart.


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Contact: Karen Blum
kblum@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
29-May-2001


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