Walking trials in postmenopausal women: effect of low doses of exercise and exercise fractionization on coronary risk factors


Corresponding author: Tuula-Maria Asikainen, UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, Kaupinpuistonkatu 1, FIN-33500 Tampere, Finland. Tel: +358-3-2829 111, E-mail: tm.asikainen@sci.fi


We studied the fractionization of walking training and searched for the minimum dose to affect coronary risk factors in two randomized controlled trials. Altogether 134 (Study I) and 121 (Study II) healthy, sedentary postmenopausal women started the trials, and 130 (Study I) and 116 (Study II) completed them. In Study I the exercise intensity was 65% of the maximal aerobic power (VO2max) and a total of 300 kcal was expended in one (Group W1) or two (Group W2) daily walking bouts. In Study II the exercise was continuous, and the exercise intensity (% of VO2max) and energy expenditure (kcal session−1) were 55% and 300 kcal (Group W3), 45% and 300 kcal (Group W4), 55% and 200 kcal (Group W5) and 45% and 200 kcal (Group W6). All the subjects walked 5 days a week. The outcome measures were blood pressure, serum lipoproteins and blood glucose and plasma insulin in fasting state and also during 2-h oral glucose tolerance test in Study I. There was no change in diastolic pressure in the original study groups, but in the combined exercise group (W1+W2) in Study I, the mean diastolic pressure declined by −3.0 mmHg (95% con-fidence interval (CI) −5.5 to −0.4) (P=0.025) in comparison with that of the controls. The mean blood glucose declined by −0.21 mmol L−1 (CI −0.33 to −0.09) in Group W1 and −0.13 mmol L−1 (CI −0.25 to −0.01) in Group W2 compared to controls (P=0.03). Also the 2-h glucose concentration decreased in Groups W1 and W2 compared to controls. Systolic blood pressure, serum lipoproteins and insulin levels did not change in Study I or Study II. We conclude that our training program with the greatest exercise dose, exercise intensity 65% of VO2max and weekly expenditure of 1500 kcal had a minimal, positive effect on diastolic pressure and blood glucose, and the effect was similar in one or two daily exercise session groups. This exercise dose is probably close to the minimum to affect coronary risk factors in healthy postmenopausal women. To get a more pronounced and clinically relevant effect, a greater exercise dose is needed.