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Exercise May Give
Emotional Lift To Elderly

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Regular exercise may give an emotional boost to frail elderly adults without causing them physical pain, new study results suggest. The findings add to evidence that activity can bring benefits beyond physical well-being.

But probably the most important finding in the current study is the fact that exercise--from endurance activities to strength and flexibility training--caused elderly participants no physical pain, the study's lead author told Reuters Health.

``That is really important,'' said Dr. Kenneth B. Schechtman of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. ``A lot of elderly people, especially those with arthritis and other painful conditions, are reluctant to exercise because of concern about increasing their pain and discomfort.''

However, while this study found regular, supervised exercise to be safe, Schechtman cautioned that older men and women should consult their doctors before starting an exercise plan.

``It would be irresponsible not to say that, before becoming involved in an exercise program, you need to get the okay from a doctor,'' he added.

Schechtman's team looked at more than 1,700 elderly adults who took part in exercise interventions at four sites in the US. All were frail and considered at risk for fall-related injuries. The researchers focused on how the activities, which included endurance, resistance, flexibility and balance training, affected participants' quality of life.

The investigators found that, overall, participants reported improved emotional health following the exercise intervention. The scale used to measure emotional health did not specifically gauge psychological problems like depression, but can serve as an indicator of such conditions, the researcher pointed out.

Basically, Schechtman explained, the scale asks ``do you feel good about yourself?''

He and his colleagues report their findings in the August issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The frequency, types and intensity of exercise required for an emotional lift are unclear, according to Schechtman. He said further research is needed to weed out the benefits of exercise for various populations.

While regular activity clearly boosts physical well-being, he noted, ``in terms of quality of life parameters...there is much less clarity.''

SOURCE: Annals of Behavioral Medicine August 2001.


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