During the first eight weeks, participants received two 50-minute exercise sessions weekly. Subsequently, sessions were extended to one hour and were offered three times weekly. During the first eight weeks, sessions were dedicated to aerobic exercise at a maximum heart-rate reserve of 50% to 70%. During weeks 8 through 12, muscle training was included, aimed at increasing stamina. During the remaining 12 weeks, all exercises were intensified to produce a workload of 60% to 85% maximum heart-rate reserve. Sessions were carried out in a group setting, with rhythmic background music, and were administered by experienced, trained sports monitors and supervised by physical activity and sports-science teachers.

In the exercise group, statistically significant improvements were observed in subjects with moderate and severe depression (18% and 22% respectively), as measured by the Brink and Yesavage Geriatric Depression Scale. No similar change was found in the control group. Subjects in the exercise group with moderate depression experienced a reduction in score of 2.26, compared to an increase in score of 0.06 of moderately depressed subjects in the control group (P<0.05). Those with severe depression experienced a reduction in score of 3.35, compared to a reduction of 0.38 of severely depressed subjects in the control group (P<0.01).

Subjects in the exercise group who were suffering from mild anxiety, as measured by the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, experienced a reduction in their score of 2.06, compared to 0.08 of subjects with mild anxiety in the control group (P<0.01); and subjects in the exercise group who were suffering from severe anxiety experienced a reduction in score of 1.74, compared to an increase of 0.64 in those with severe anxiety in the control group (P<0.05).

The researchers stated, “The mood changes undergone by the postmenopausal women in our study were sufficiently eloquent as to justify widespread promotion of the conclusion that exercise is a healthy habit and a promoter of lifestyle changes.” They noted, “With aging, people tend to take progressively less exercise and it may be totally abandoned, especially among older women. Thus, it may be necessary to develop strategies aimed at overcoming present barriers, stimulating participation by women in programs of regular physical exercise.” They concluded that exercise is a “highly useful instrument” for preventing or alleviating anxiety and depression after menopause.

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