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February 17, 2015
By Scott Johnson
Healthy Living Examiner
Just 2 to 3 days of physical activity per week can reduce heart disease by 20 percent among middle-aged women.
Making time can for regular physical activity can be challenging in today’s fast-paced, over-programmed, and digitally-distracted society. But, a new British study published February 16, 2015 in the journal Circulation provides one more big reason why people should make time to be active — a 20 percent reduction in heart disease risk among middle-aged women.
The benefits of regular physical activity are well-known and include better weight management, enhanced mood, more energy, improved sleep, and a reduced risk of disease — including heart disease. Researchsuggests that regular physical activity protects against cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure, improving cholesterol profiles and enhancing insulin sensitivity.
Despite these well-recognized and widely publicized benefits less than 5 percent of Americans meet the goal of 150 minutes of physical activity weekly according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This represents a significant number of people that may unnecessarily experience heart disease.
All too often, people conjure images of sweating for an hour on a treadmill in a gym when physical activity is mentioned. The reality is scientists have determined that the cumulative effects of short periods of physical activity may produce similar health benefits to going to the gym to workout for the same or longer periods of time. And the recent study by researchers from the University of Oxford adds credence to this idea.
More than one million women in the United Kingdom with no history of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes were tracked from 1996 to 2001. Each woman who participated in the study reported their level of physical activity for three years. Researchers tracked hospital admissions and deaths in relation to the participant’s physical activity levels for an average of nine years.
What the researchers found was that women who participated in strenuous activity — activity that elevated their heart rate are caused sweating — two to three times weekly were 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes, or blood clots when compared to women who reported little to no physical activity.
Interestingly, active women who participated in strenuous activity more often than three times per week did not achieve any further reduction in heart disease risk. This suggests that two to three days of strenuous activity is the optimal activity to reduce heart disease. However, more physical activity may provide greater benefits for weight, mood, or other chronic conditions.
Regular physical activity can include brisk walks, gardening, cycling, or any other enjoyable activity that elevates your heart rate. It can even be as simple as frequent breaks at work to walk the halls or up and down the stairs. The key is to find time to add regular physical activity into your day.