The Effect of a Healthy Lifestyle on Future Physical Functioning in Midlife Women

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This study aimed to examine the prospective association between healthy lifestyle behaviors and objectively measured physical function in midlife women.


Participants included 1769 racially/ethnically diverse women, ages 56–68 yr, from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation cohort. Physical function was assessed at the 13th follow-up visit with the Short Physical Performance Battery (4-m walk, repeated chair stands, and balance test) and grip strength. A healthy lifestyle score (HLS), which ranged from 0 to 6, was calculated by averaging as many as three repeated measures of self-reported smoking, physical activity, and diet, all assessed before the 13th follow-up. Multivariable linear and logistic regressions modeled each component of physical performance as a function of HLS and, in separate models, of each lifestyle behavior, adjusted for the other behaviors.


In multivariable analyses, the time for the 4-m walk was 0.06 s faster (P = 0.001) for every 1 point increase in the HLS. The time for the repeated chair stands was significantly shorter by approximately 0.20 s. Neither grip strength nor balance problems were significantly associated with the HLS (P = 0.28 and P = 0.19, respectively). The model examining the individual health behaviors showed that only physical activity was significantly associated with physical performance.


Regular physical activity in early midlife has the potential to reduce the likelihood of physical functional limitations later in midlife.

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