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From 1982 to 1985, a randomized clinical trial examining the effect of a walking intervention on bone measures in postmenopausal women demonstrated excellent compliance, with 80% of the intervention women (n=114) averaging≥5 miles/week over 2.5 years. In fact, objective and subjective measures of activity were found to be higher in the intervention women compared to 115 controls. The purpose of this study was to determine if the original trial had long-term effects on the activity habits and health status of these women 10 years later. In 1995, the status of 207 women (90%) was confirmed, with nine found to be deceased and 196 (86%) completing a standardized phone interview[100 from the control group and 96 from the walking group (mean ages ± SD = 70.9 ± 4.3 and 70.3 ± 4.0 years)]. Walking activity was assessed with three independent questions, while overall sports and leisure physical activity was derived from the Paffenbarger Questionnaire. The walking questions all revealed higher medians and 75th percentiles for the women from the walking group compared to those from the control group. The magnitude of the difference in medians between walkers and controls for usual walking for exercise and total usual walking (exercise+non-exercise) was 706 (p<0.01) and 420 kcal/week (p<0.01), respectively. In order to determine if this apparent long-term behavior change had any effect on health status, the incidence of self-reported chronic diseases and conditions over the past 10 years was also ascertained. An 82% reduction in risk for heart disease was found for the walkers compared to controls [relative risk = 0.18 (95% confidence interval = 0.04-0.80)]. There also appeared to be fewer hospitalizations, surgeries, and falls in the walking group. This study may be the first to identify beneficial long-term changes in physical activity behavior and concomitant benefits in the health status of older women.

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