endurance in older women

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity can improve exercise endurance and help prevent chronic diseases. A study determines if a six-month brisk walking program was able to improve walking endurance in older women who are physically deconditioned.

Low physical activity is associated with chronic diseases and older people are more susceptible to such diseases due to their sedentary lifestyle. It is recommended that adults engage in a moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity such as brisk walking in order to improve their exercise endurance and prevent chronic diseases, however, a high proportion of postmenopausal women do not engage in an adequate physical activity as recommended. Brisk walking is a convenient activity that needs minimal formal training and equipment and can be performed in an individual’s immediate vicinity. Although brisk walking has been shown to produce some beneficial effect on endurance in certain adults such as in obese subjects and in those with chronic diseases, few randomized studies have evaluated its effect on walking endurance in sedentary and physically deconditioned women aged 60 years or older.

In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, Blain and collaborators studied the effects of a six-month brisk walking program on walking endurance in older women using a randomized controlled trial. They recruited 121 women who were 60 years or older with documented sedentary lifestyle and physically deconditioned as measured by their six-minute walking distance (6MWD) based on gender, age, and body weight and weight. These women had a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30 kg/m² and did not have any incapacitating chronic disease or contraindications to exercise as determined by their physicians. The women were randomized into either a six-month brisk walking intervention group (61 exercisers) or a free physical activity control group (60 subjects). In the intervention group, the women underwent 50 minutes of supervised brisk walking sessions twice a week and one unsupervised 50 minutes session per week for six months. In the control group, physical activity was allowed freely. The 6MWD for the exercisers and controls were measured at the start of the study (baseline) and after six months.

The researchers found that the exercise group had a more significant increase in their 6MWD than the control group. Ninety-eight percent of the exercisers showed improvement in their 6MWD compared to the control group. While 74.5% of exercisers saw an increase in the age-matched norm of their 6MWD, only 10.6% of the control group showed this increase.

Notably, the most striking improvements were seen in women with the highest BMIs and the lowest 6MWD at the start.  This implies that the program to improve endurance in older women will benefit those who have the most to gain from such programs. The results of this trial show that a brisk walking program in older women who are physically deconditioned can increase their walking endurance and as such, they should be encouraged to participate in such programs in order to maintain independence and prevent chronic diseases.

Written by Asongna T. Folefoc


Blain H, Jaussent A, Picot M-C, Maimoun L, Coste O, Masud T, Bousquet J, Bernard PL. (2017) “Effect Of A 6-Month Brisk Walking Program On Walking Endurance In Sedentary And Physically Deconditioned Women Aged 60 Or Older: A Randomized Trial”. J Nutr Health Aging

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