[Paleopsych] Science Blog: Exercise adds years to life and improves quality

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Sat Nov 19 01:56:52 UTC 2005

Exercise adds years to life and improves quality

Exercise is a lot like spinach ??? everybody knows it's good for you; yet many 
people still avoid it, forgoing its potential health benefits.

But researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who study the 
effects of exercise on aging point to new findings that may inspire people to 
get up, get out and get moving on a regular basis. The research team, led by 
kinesiology professor Edward McAuley, found that previously sedentary seniors 
who incorporated exercise into their lifestyles not only improved physical 
function, but experienced psychological benefits as well.

"The implications of our work are that not only will physical activity 
potentially add years to your life as we age, but the quality of those years is 
likely to be improved by regular physical activity," McAuley said.

Results of the study appear in an article titled "Physical Activity Enhances 
Long-Term Quality of Life in Older Adults: Efficacy, Esteem and Affective 
Influences," published in the current issue of the Annals of Behavioral 
Medicine. Co-authors with McAuley on the report are UI kinesiology professor 
Robert W. Motl; psychology professor Ed Diener; and current and former graduate 
students Steriani Elavsky, Liang Hu, Gerald J. Jerome, James F. Konopack and 
David X. Marquez.

The UI research indicated positive psychosocial and cognitive outcomes -- in 
effect, significant quality-of-life gains -- among participants who remained 
physically active long after they began an initial randomized, six-month 
exercise trial consisting of walking and stretching/toning exercises. Results 
were gleaned from a battery of surveys and assessments administered at one- and 
five-year intervals following the initial exercise regimen.

McCauley said the study -- which assessed physical activity levels, quality of 
life, physical self-esteem, self-efficacy and affect in a large sample (174) of 
adults over age 65 -- is believed to be the only one to date to examine the 
relationship between physical activity and quality of life over such a long 
time. "Self-efficacy," McAuley noted, can be defined as "the belief, or 
self-confidence, in one's capacity to successfully carry out a task"; while 
"affect" refers to reported levels of happiness or contentment.

The researchers found that participants who continued to be physically active a 
year after baseline responses were recorded -- through engagement in leisure, 
occupational or home activities, such as house-cleaning or gardening -- were 
"fitter, had higher levels of self-efficacy and physical self-esteem, expressed 
more positive affect and reported, in turn, a better quality of life."

Increased physical activity over time, as indicated by results of the five-year 
follow-up, "was associated with greater improvements in self-esteem and affect. 
Enhanced affect was, in turn, associated with increases in satisfaction with 
life over time," the researchers noted.

"Our findings are important on several fronts," McAuley said. "First, we 
demonstrated that physical activity has long-term effects on important aspects 
of psychosocial functioning through its influences on self-efficacy, quality of 
life and self-esteem."

"Second, there is a growing interest in the relationship between physical 
activity and quality of life, especially in older adults. However, much of this 
work suggests a direct relationship between the two. Our work takes the 
approach, and the data support it, that physical activity influences more 
global aspects of quality of life through its influence on more proximal 
physical and psychological factors such as affect, self-efficacy and health 

A related, two-year study conducted in McAuley's lab looked at the roles played 
by physical activity, health status and self-efficacy in determining "global 
quality of life," or satisfaction with life among older adults. The research 
focused on a different sample of 249 older black and white women. Results of 
that study will be published in an article titled "Physical Activity and 
Quality of Life in Older Adults: Influence of Health Status and Self-Efficacy" 
in a forthcoming edition of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

In that study, the researchers tested three potentially competing models of the 
physical activity/quality-of-life relationship and ultimately concluded that 
their findings "offer a strong theoretical foundation for understanding 
physical activity and quality-of-life relationships in older adults."

McAuley said the study's results confirm earlier findings by other researchers 
suggesting "changes in levels of functioning in older adults with chronic 
conditions were not predicted simply by health status or disease state, but 
also by physical activity and self-efficacy."

In other words, he said, there is a tendency among adults with lower 
self-expectations of their physical abilities to give up -- to reduce the 
number of activities they engage in as well as the degree of effort they expend 
toward that end.

"These reductions, in turn, provide fewer opportunities to experience 
successful, efficacy-enhancing behaviors leading to further reductions in 
efficacy," McAuley said. "Our data would suggest that such declines are likely 
to lead to subsequent reductions in health status and, ultimately, quality of 

>From University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Submitted by BJS on Fri, 2005-11-11 10:14.

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