- Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
- Experts say exercise is one way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- In a new study, researchers say older women don’t necessarily have to do daily intense exercise to improve their heart health.
- They say daily activities such as gardening, housework, and stretching for 4 hours a day can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Thankfully, everyone can take precautionary measures to maintain heart health. For example, it’s well-known that regular exercise is good for the cardiovascular system.
And you don’t need to run a mile or head to the gym every day to reap the benefits, either. Here we’ll dive into a new study on the relationship between daily movement and heart health in older women.
Scientists measured the physical activity of more than 5,400 women in the United States between the ages of 63 and 97 without heart disease at the start of the study.
Participants wore an accelerometer for up to 7 days to measure how much time they spent moving and listed the types of daily life behaviors that resulted in movement. Each minute was classified as:
- sitting in a vehicle
- standing still
- daily life movement
Researchers reported that performing routine activities, classified as daily life movement, for 4 hours per day can lower the risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease by 43 percent and stroke by 30 percent, compared to women with 2 hours of daily life movement.
In addition, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was decreased by 62 percent.
“Sometimes things go against what you think or have been taught,” said Dr. Leonard Pianko, FACC, the founder and medical director of the Aventura Cardiovascular Center in Florida.
“Previously, exercise focus was generally on intensity, increasing your heart rate, and sweating,” Pianko told Healthline. “This study shows us the importance of just keeping active, moving, and making the commitment to daily movement.”
“The study results do not negate the benefits of daily structured exercise like running or swimming, but it does show that there are other opportunities that are more palatable (and less injury-prone) that provide the benefits of protecting women from heart disease,” he said.
So, what are some ways to obtain daily life movement?
“There are many benefits of exercise: weight loss, less stress, and improved mood. But, you do not have to join a gym or run around the block every day,” said Reda Elmardi, a registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist trainer.
“I suggest that older women get moving in the morning,” Elmardi told Healthline. “When you engage in physical activity in the morning, your muscles are primed to work harder and longer. You’ll feel better throughout the rest of the day because you gave yourself a healthy boost of energy.”
There are many ways to increase your movement during the day, including:
- gardening and outdoor tasks
- standing or walking while talking on the phone
- parking further from work or shopping entrances
- taking a walk
- taking the steps instead of the elevator or escalator
Before modifying your activity levels, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about safe options that might be right for you.
Wearing a fitness tracker can also help increase daily movement.
Having an accurate daily record gives people information that might help increase daily activity.
For example, seeing the number of steps you take each day could encourage you to increase your activity. Fitness trackers include pedometers, wearable devices, or smartphone apps.
To get best use out of a tracker, you might want to:
- Wear it or use it every day.
- Set a goal, but check with your doctor to make sure it is reasonable and healthy.
- Find activities you enjoy.
- Be accountable by checking your numbers every day and sharing with your doctor or a health and wellness professional.
Some people find it helps to recruit friends and family, and use trackers. You can create a social support network and be accountable to the circle every day.
If you are competitive, you can beat your record or those in your social network.