Aims: To explore potential effects of physical activity on well-being in a population study. Results are from baseline and 32-year follow-ups.
Methods: In a population study of 1462 women in five age strata cross-sectional and prospective analysis were carried out. Activity levels were divided into low, intermediate and high. Well-being was based on self-reported well-being using a Likert-type 7-point scale.
Results: Cross-sectional analysis showed strong associations between level of physical activity and well-being. The odds ratio (OR) for poor well-being in women with low physical activity compared with physically more active women was, when studied cross-sectionally, after 12 years in 1980-81 3.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.70-5.74, after 24 years in 1992-93 4.01, CI 2.61-6.17, and after 32 years in 2000-01 7.17, CI 3.56-14.44. Similar associations were observed when relating physical activity at baseline to subsequent well-being: after 12 years: OR 2.09, 95% CI 1.31-3.34, after 24 years: OR 2.74; 95% CI 1.56-4.83, and after 32 years: OR 1.49, 95% CI 0.77-2.88. There was a linear correlation between changes in the individual's physical activity level and her simultaneous changes in experience of well-being between 1980-81 and 1992-93 and between 1992-93 and 2000-01 as well as between 1980-81 and 2000-01.
Conclusions: Strong associations were observed between leisure time physical activity level and reported experience of well-being cross-sectionally and prospectively. Well-being increased with concurrent changes in physical activity. Increased physical activity in sedentary individuals appears to promote not only health but also well-being.