Middle-aged women who are overweight are more likely to increase physical activity by seeking the help of a family doctor, according to a trial conducted by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study, recently published at the Journal of General Internal Medicine, aimed to prevent obesity and physical inactivity in order to reduce the risk of subsequent development of cardiovascular conditions.
The study entitled “Effectiveness of a Physical Activity and Weight Loss Intervention for Middle-Aged Women: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Hearts Randomized Trial” revealed that when middle-aged women undergo exercise programs suggested by their primary care doctor, the probability of continuing to develop physical activity is higher several months later than women who tried to begin exercise alone.
“Women who participated in programs in their doctor’s office had a structured environment allowing them to focus on their lifestyle habits like eating and exercising, and make changes,” associate professor of medicine, epidemiology, and clinical and translational science at Pittsburgh, Molly Conroy, M.D., M.P.H., explained in a press release.
Scientists studied 99 women between 45 and 65 years old who were inactive and overweight at three primary care offices at UPMC Montefiore, UPMC Shadyside and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. The research team randomly divided women in two groups and provided one of them with 12 weekly sessions at their primary care physician’s office with 30 minutes of discussion and another 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, while the other group was given a manual to conduct self-guided independent exercise.
Three months after the beginning of the study, the team observed that the first group had significantly higher levels of physical activity. A year later, the two groups had decreased the level of exercise, but while the second group had returned to the baseline levels (before the trial), the second one was still more physically active, conducting about 60 minutes of exercise per week.
“These outcomes imply that primary care-based interventions can be very beneficial to keep sedentary women motivated for several months. Many indicated their confidence was higher and that they felt more comfortable exercising with support. Follow-up sessions could help women over the long-term,” added Dr. Conroy. “Future efforts should focus on finding the best way to sustain that activity, using resources available in the primary care setting.”
The research, which was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was co-authored by Kathleen L. Sward, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Heartchange, Kathleen Spadaro, Ph.D., of Chatham University, as well as the Pittsburgh scientists Dana Tudorascu, Ph.D., Irna Karpov, M.S., Bobby L. Jones, Ph.D., Andrea M. Kriska, Ph.D., and Wishwa N. Kapoor, M.D., M.P.H.