Middle-aged women who are physically active a few times per week have lower risks of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than inactive women, according to new research.
Surprisingly, more frequent physical activity didn’t result in further reductions in risk, researchers said. The findings were published Feb. 16 on the website of the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
In the study:
Women who performed strenuous physical activity — enough to cause sweating or a faster heartbeat — two to three times per week were about 20% less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared with participants who reported little or no activity.
Among active women, there was little evidence of further risk reductions with more frequent activity.
Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening and cycling.
“Inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly,” study lead author Miranda Armstrong, MPhil, PhD, a physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said in a news release. “However, to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that from moderately frequent activity.”
Study participants included 1.1 million women in the U.K. with no history of cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood clots or diabetes who joined the Million Women study in 1996-2001. Their average age when they joined the study was 56.
The women reported their level of physical activity at the beginning of the study and three years later. Researchers then examined hospital admissions and deaths in relation to participants’ responses. Follow-up was, on average, nine years.
The UK Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the BHF Centre of Research Excellence in Oxford funded the study.
Read the study abstract here.