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Exercise may cure grumpiness

For all those who have remained in their rocking chairs despite the evidence that exercise fights disease, researchers now say activity makes older people just plain happy.

In a review of 32 studies of activity and mood among the elderly, investigators found that regular exercise--particularly strength training--boosted study participants' moods. The results were "remarkably consistent" across the studies, according to a report in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.

In addition, researchers led by Shawn M. Arent of Arizona State University in Tempe, found that two types of exercise were better than one. The combination of aerobic exercise and strength training elevated mood to a greater extent than did aerobic exercise alone. Strengthening exercises counter the muscle loss that interferes with daily life as people age, the authors note.

"Psychological improvements might coincide with these physical improvements," Arent and colleagues write.

Moreover, the study showed that low-intensity exercise produced the greatest mood improvements, suggesting that exercise gave the biggest lift to "unfit" study participants.

The authors note that "there is much to be learned" about the optimal intensity, frequency and duration of strengthening exercises for the elderly, particularly those in poorer health. The combination of aerobics and strength training, Arent and colleagues write, may be the most beneficial activity plan for the elderly, but research in the area is "severely lacking."

- More articles on Exercise

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