Exercise, Relationships Linked to Health


Couple doing warm-up training, and stretch exercises on the sand beach outdoors. Jog on the seaside on a summer morning. | Image by ViDI Studio, Shutterstock

The British Medical Journal recently published the findings of two long-term observational studies that linked exercise and good relationships to better health in later life.

The first study, conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland in Australia, probed the correlation between social relationships and chronic health issues.

Researchers focused on 13,714 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH), an ongoing population-based cohort study. They observed a subset of women who were aged 45 to 50 in 1996. The women in the study answered questionnaires about their relationships and health conditions approximately every three years over the next 20 years.

Each participant used a 4-point scale to rank their relationship satisfaction in five categories: societal activities, work, family, friends, and partners. Each category was weighted up to a maximum of 3 points.

The participants were then asked if they developed any chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, COPD, arthritis, and cancer.

After excluding women with chronic health conditions at baseline and those with incomplete data, 7,694 women remained at the end of the study. Of the remaining participants, 58% developed multiple long-term conditions over the 20 years of observation.

Scientists concluded that women who scored their relationships the lowest were twice as likely to develop chronic conditions compared to those who scored them highly.

“Overall, relationship satisfaction was associated with the accumulation of multiple long-term conditions: the greater the levels of satisfaction, the lower were the risks,” said researchers in the study.

The researchers concluded that the study’s findings have “significant implications for chronic disease management and prevention.” Fostering good social connections should be a priority at the individual level, at the community level, and globally, according to the researchers.

The researchers said that because the findings were observational, they could not determine the exact causes of the effects demonstrated in the study.

The second study assessed how “timing, frequency, and maintenance of being physically active, spanning over 30 years in adulthood, is associated with later-life cognitive function.”

Researchers at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Aging at University College London analyzed responses of both male and female participants regarding their physical activity levels at five intervals between the ages of 36 to 69. The participants were drawn from a 1946 British cohort.

Scientists recorded the physical activity levels of the participants with the classifications of inactive, moderately active, and most active. They added these across the five assessments to create scores ranging from 0 — active at no stages — and 5, active at all stages.

Cognitive performance was calculated through the ACE-111 test, which measures attention and orientation, verbal fluency, memory, language, visuospatial function, verbal memory, and processing speed, according to the study.

“Some 11% of participants were physically inactive at all five-time points; 17% were active at one; 20% were active at two and three; 17% were active at four and 15% at all five,” the researchers reported in the study.

Researchers observed that being active at all five-time points was correlated with “higher cognitive performance, verbal memory, and processing speed” at age 69.

“Our findings support guidelines to recommend participation in any physical activity across adulthood and provide evidence that encouraging inactive adults to be more active at any time, and encouraging already active adults to maintain activity, could confer benefits on later-life cognition,” said researchers in the study.

Scientists have also observed that cardiovascular activities lead to better brain and physical health and help prevent obesity, one of the nation’s most prevalent epidemics, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. 

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