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Maintaining Strength Important for Middle Age Women’s Mental Health

Poor Fitness & Strength Tied to Depression, Anxiety in Middle-Aged Women

Although physical fitness has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and enhancing well-being, a new study appears to bolster the mental health benefits of staying in shape, especially staying strong, among midlife women.

Physical fitness is a well-known predictor of physical and mental health among men and women. Benefits of staying fit include improved cardiovascular health, enhanced cognition, reduced morbidity and a better quality of life.

In the study, researchers from Singapore determined physical performance is linked to mental health and emotions. Specifically, their findings suggest that weak upper and lower body fitness can cause more serious depression and anxiety in midlife women.

Although several studies have previously linked depression in midlife women with self-reported low physical activity, the new study is unique. The investigation is the first to evaluate objective measures of physical performance (strength, upper/lower body fitness) in relation to depression and anxiety in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women.

The study appears online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Depression and anxiety are prevalent symptoms experienced by midlife women. This latest study of more than 1,100 women aged 45 to 69 years found, in fact, that 15 percent of participants, especially those of younger age, reported depression and/or anxiety.

As depression can cause disability, reduced quality of life, mortality, and heart disease, the researchers believed it was important to identify potentially modifiable risk factors that could reduce morbidity and mortality.

The investigators observed significant associations of objective physical performance measures with depression and anxiety.

Specifically, they found that weak upper body strength (hand grip strength) and poor lower body strength (longer duration to complete the repeated chair stand test) were associated with elevated depression and/or anxiety symptoms.

Scientists note that future trials are necessary to determine whether strengthening exercises that improve physical performance might similarly help reduce depression and anxiety in midlife women.

“Strength training has been shown to lead to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

“Both strength training and aerobic exercise appear to improve depression, possibly as a result of increased blood flow to the brain or improved coping with stress from the release of endorphins such as norepinephrine and dopamine.”

Source: The North America Menopause Society/EurekAlert

Poor Fitness & Strength Tied to Depression, Anxiety in Middle-Aged Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Poor Fitness & Strength Tied to Depression, Anxiety in Middle-Aged Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Jun 2019 (Originally: 6 Jun 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 6 Jun 2019
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