Objective: To describe the effect of a supervised physical activity program on the physical and psychological health of osteopenic women.
Design: A randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.
Participants: A total of 124 community-living postmenopausal women, between 50 and 70 years of age, with low bone mass took part in the study.
Intervention: Subjects allocated to the experimental group performed weight-bearing exercises (walking, stepping up and down from benches), aerobic dancing, and flexibility exercises for 60 minutes, three times a week, over a period of 12 months. All subjects were invited to attend bi-monthly educational seminars covering topics related to osteoporosis.
Outcome measures: Spinal and femoral bone mineral density (BMD), functional fitness (flexibility, coordination, agility, strength/endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance), psychological well-being, back pain intensity, and self-perceived health.
Results: Spinal BMD stabilized in the exercisers while decreasing significantly in the controls (P = .031). No change in femoral BMD was observed in either group (P = .597). Four of the five parameters chosen to evaluate functional fitness, namely flexibility, agility, strength, and endurance, were affected positively by the exercise program (all P < .01). Adjusting for prescores by means of an analysis of covariance revealed a significant difference between the groups in psychological well-being, which favored the exercisers (P = .012). After 12 months, back pain reported by exercisers was lower than that reported by controls (P = .008). Finally, self-perceived health increased in the exercise group, whereas no difference was observed in the control group (P = .790).
Conclusion: These results suggest that after 12 months, exercising can produce a significant increase above initial levels in the functional fitness, well-being, and self-perceived health of osteopenic women. Intensity of back pain can also be lowered by exercise. The exercise program succeeded in stabilizing spinal BMD but had no effect on femoral BMD.