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Dec 14, 2017

Moderate Exercise Reduces Risk of Death in Women

A study of more than 17,000 women links physical activity to a longer, healthier life.

Simple activities like brisk walking or even mowing the lawn could add years to your life, based on recent findings that link moderate to vigorous exercise to reduced risk of death in women.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study used accelerometers to explore the link between physical activity and mortality risk. Accelerometers are small wearable devices used to track activity levels and provide more reliable data than self-reported surveys, according to authors.

This study was conducted from 2011–2015 and included more than 17,000 past participants of the Women’s Health Study. The Women’s Health Study was first started in 1993 by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School and included middle-aged female health professionals.

In the recent study, participants wore accelerometers on their hip for one week to track both physical activity and sedentary time. Participants were 72 years old on average and were followed for just over two years.

Based on accelerometer data, women spent a median of 28 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, which includes activities like brisk walking, jogging or swimming. The bulk of participants’ time was spent sedentary or doing light physical activity.

By the end of the study, 207 of the participants had died. However, researchers found that women spending more time active had significantly lower risk of death than those who were more sedentary. Researchers also found most of this association was due to the effects of moderate to vigorous physical activity. In other words, more intense forms of physical activity appeared to have the greatest impact on mortality risk compared to lighter forms of exercise.

According to authors, findings confirm the association between regular physical activity and reduced risk of death. Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. These guidelines have been linked to a wealth of health benefits, such as a healthier weight, reduced risk for heart disease and even improved mood. Recent findings add to a large body of evidence linking regular physical activity to a longer, healthier life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
  • What are the benefits of physical activity?
  • Regular physical activity has a wealth of benefits, such as reducing risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can also increase energy, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle.

Infographic: Active Living


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