Sedentary lifestyle means a shorter life for women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Staying active is important for older women especially.
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Women who sit too long or lie around the house are at higher risk for heart disease and earlier death, finds a new study. It seems taking advantage of “chilling out” with naps and watching TV can up a woman’s chances of an earlier death.

Findings from researchers suggest it’s important to get the message out to older women that getting up and moving throughout the day can significantly improve health and longevity. Researchers say exercise is “medicine”, even for women with chronic health conditions.

Sedentary lifestyle ups cancer risk too

It isn’t just heart disease that can occur from being sedentary. According to Rebecca Seguin, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor in the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, women who sit or lie down for 11 hours or more a day are at highest risk for coronary heart disease, cancer and early death.

In their study, the researchers found women who sit a lot tended to have a college degree, smoke and have a higher body mass index in addition to less that optimal health. They also were more likely to have fallen in the past year.

A study, published in 2011 also found women who sit too long could be at higher risk for breast and colon cancer that could account for 100,000 new cases of breast cancer and colon cancer per year.

Sequin said in a press release: “Sedentary lifestyles often have consequences in people in all ages, but exercise is medicine," she said. "Just by doing some form of activity, older women possibly gain benefits that overshadow their chronic ailments."

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We all know that exercise has health benefits that include physical and mental well-being.

Rebecca Jaffe, M.D., MPH, a private practice family physician and board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians explains it’s important that women also know being sedentary causes harm.

The study

For their study, researchers analyzed the link between being sedentary and mortality among 92,234 women, 50 to 79-years-old, between 1993 and 1998.

The investigation showed it isn’t necessarily chronic health conditions that can lead to heart disease and early mortality. Being sedentary raised the odds of dying sooner even when adjusting for other health ailments.

The take home message for older women is that activity is your friend. Speak with your doctor about what type of exercise can benefit you and not cause harm. Even those with disabilities can find ways to be active.

How to exercise with disabilities

  • If you are able, start a simple walking program and slowly increase your speed and distance. It doesn’t matter where you start.
  • If you suffer from pain, try exercising in a pool.
  • If you have trouble walking altogether, exercise while seated. You can use resistance bands or a simple bicycle peddler.
  • If your balance is poor you can still get up and move using a walker. Speak with your doctor if you are at risk for falls, or do exercises in a chair for safety.
  • Just stretching can improve vascular tone to help improve heart health and can be performed throughout the day at regular intervals.

The finding is just one in a series of recent studies showing the ill effects of sitting too long. Did you know people who get up an move from the TV or computer, even if it's just for a minute, have smaller waistlines? For older women, being sedentary can lead to a variety of health problems that lead to an earlier death.

Source:
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
"Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women:
The Women’s Health Initiative"
Rebecca Sequin, et al.
February, 2014

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