We all know that being active can help increase our heart health and overall health, but how much is enough? It seems that simply staying active 2-3 times a week can help middle-aged women reduce their risk of stroke, heart disease, and even blood clots when compared to inactive women.
As we age, we tend to become more sedentary, which can lead to decreasing bone density and muscle mass. This is especially true in women who have a greater risk of osteoporosis and decreased muscle strength. But the simple act of just staying active 2-3 times a week can negate some of these adverse outcomes.
The research which was published in the journal Circulation – an American Heart Association publication – looked at 1.1 million women in the United Kingdom. These women had no history of heart disease or cancer with an average age of 56 years old. During the study the women reported their activity levels at the beginning of the study and then three years later. The researchers then on average followed up with the participants 9 years later and looked at their hospital admissions and death records to compare the responses.
What they found was that the women who perform “strenuous” activity (enough to increase heart rate and induce sweating) such as cycling, hiking, and gardening at least 2-3 times a week had a 20 percent reduction in stroke, heart disease, and blood clots compared to the women who didn’t. What was surprising was that there were no increased benefits from a higher activity level.
Health benefits of staying active
As we age, there are numerous health benefits that come with staying active. For instance, weekly strength training can help burn calories and can therefore be helpful in controlling your weight. It can also build muscle, improve your strength, improve your quality of life, etc. It can even help fight osteoporosis.
By performing 2-3 full-body strength training workouts a week, women (and men) can help improve their bone density (any of these exercises. This is because weight-bearing exercise likes strength training, hiking, dancing, and jogging all cause our bones to reinforce themselves – improving our bone density! [As with any exercise program, consult your doctor before beginning.]
As we age, it is important for all of us to stay active. Even as little as 2 or 3 activity sessions a week are enough to witness remarkable results. When it comes to helping women improve their heart health, Dr. Miranda Armstrong, lead author of the study, said,“Inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly. However, to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that from moderately frequent activity.” The main point: start getting active to improve your health – a little goes a long way!