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Physical benefits and reduction of depressive symptoms among the elderly: Results from the Portuguese "National Walking Program"

Benefícios físicos e redução de sintomas depressivos em idosos: resultados do Programa Nacional de Caminhada Português

Jeronimo Costa Branco Karen Jansen Jessica Teixeira Sobrinho Susana Carrapatoso Barbara Spessato Joana Carvalho Jorge Mota Ricardo Azevedo da Silva About the authors

The aim of this study was to investigate alterations in physical fitness and anthropometric parameters as well as depression symptoms among the elderly after participation in the "National Walking Program" (Portugal). The sample consisted of 26 elderly people over six months with a total of 72 exercise sessions. The exercise sessions consisted of aerobics (walking and running) and strength and flexibility exercises. Participants were assessed pre- and post-intervention for physical fitness with the Rikli & Jones test. The anthropometric measurements were assessed with a bioimpedance scale and a stadiometer, and depression with Yesavage's Geriatric Depression Scale. Physical activity was only assessed with an accelerometer at the pre-intervention phase. For statistical analysis, the student t test for paired samples was performed using SPSS 21 software. Statistically significant improvements were found in depressive symptoms (p ≤ 0.001), and in all physical fitness tests (p ≤ 0.05) except for flexibility tests (p ≥ 0.05). Waist circumference reduction also showed the positive effects of the intervention (p = 0.031). The conclusion drawn is that participation in the "National Walking Program" for 6 months was effective in improving the physical and psychological health of the elderly.

The elderly; Exercises; Walking; Physical fitness; Depression

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