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6,000 steps a day in mid-life cuts disease risk for women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Research shows how many steps it takes for women to stay healthy

Researchers recently found out how many steps women need to take in mid-life to prevent disease. According to results published in the journal Menopause, it takes 6,000 or more steps a day for women to live a healthier life.

Staying active, no matter how you do it, is important for curbing the chances of heart disease and metabolic syndrome that can lead to type 2 diabetes, according to the study authors.

The authors say just moving, whether it’s from structured exercise or household activity is enough to improve women’s health.

For the study, researchers enrolled 292 women who were 45 to 72 in Passo Fundo, Brazil who were premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal. Average age of the women in the study was 57.

The women were given pedometers to measure daily steps. They also underwent health screenings that included cholesterol and blood sugar measurements and waist to hip ratio to assess the presence of abdominal obesity that is a known risk for metabolic syndrome.

The authors concluded: “Habitual physical activity, specifically walking 6,000 or more steps daily, was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in middle-aged women, independently of menopause status.” Women who took 6,000 or more steps a day were less likely to be obese.

Studies have shown that sitting too long can lead to poor health. The effects of prolonged sitting are irreversible, supporting the current study.

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Keep moving without hitting the gym

Tips to keep moving include standing up for phone calls, taking frequent breaks from the computer - at home and at work – visiting a co-worker at the desk instead of e-mailing and keeping your workplace organized so you have to walk to the trash can, printer or fax machine. If you’re a manager, consider walking meetings that can help keep your employees healthier. Park your car at the mall, grocery store or work to get more steps in each day. Consider using the stairwell instead of the elevator when you have the choice.

If your lifestyle permits, consider rescuing a dog to take on walks. People who own pets are shown to be healthier and happier than non-pet owners.

Limit TV time and stand up or walk around the house at commercial breaks to add more steps daily. It’s important to know that any extended period of inactivity can be bad for heart health. Limiting television viewing to 2 hours a day can add 1.38 years to your life.

The study isn't surprising given the wealth of information showing a sedentary lifestyle increases risk of chronic disease for everyone. The finding is especially helpful for women and shows exactly how much activity is necessary to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and weight gain that increases during mid-life.

The study authors concluded good health during mid-life for menopausal women should include 6,000 or more steps a day. Get a pedometer and make it a goal to stay active. The good news from the finding is that women can stay healthy after menopause without worrying about structured exercise that can be difficult, especially for those with busy lifestyles.

19 November 2012
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318271b388

Image credit: Morguefile