Study: Low Inactivity Levels Have Consequences for Older Women

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Are you a woman of a certain age (say, between the ages of 40 and 75)? Do you try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day? Think you’re doing enough to protect your health? Well, the answer is….no.

    A new study out of Northwestern University suggests that middle-age and older women who work out but who also are sedentary for much of the day have a greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and premature death than women who do not exercise as much but who do not sit as much either.  

    The study involved 91 healthy women between the ages of 40 and 75 years old. The participants were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire as well as to have their height and weight assessed. The researchers also asked participants to wear an activity monitor for one week in order to quantify the time spent sitting, standing, stepping and sustained moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The participants then were put into groups based on their weekly sustained moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. This procedure was different than many other studies, which only asked participants to complete self-reported surveys of activity level.

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    Participants were instructed to maintain their normal daily routine. They continued to wear the monitors immediately upon getting out of bed and to continue to wear it for the entire day, with the exception of bathing.  They also continued to wear the monitor while watching TV or reading in bed before going to sleep, and were not to remove the monitor until they were ready to turn out the lights for sleep. They also kept a log of the time they put on and took off the monitor each day.  The researchers then analyzed their daily activity, rating the activity as sufficient (for more than 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) or insufficient activity.

    The study found that participants who exercised, on average, 146 minutes (which was approximately two percent of their day) still spent 63 percent of their waking hours sitting. The researchers point out that the healthy and relatively active women who participated in this study averaged 10,000 steps a day and had a high level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity actually sat nine hours a day. “Consequently, sitting is now more abundant than sleeping, which is likely an important milestone in human history,” the researchers write. The study’s findings also suggested that women who exercise regularly but who sit have an elevated risk compared to women who do not sit as much during the day.

    The researchers point out that there needs to be new recommendations that are aimed at reducing sitting time to go along with the amount of physical activity we get daily.   "It's important to think about how you spend your entire day and what you're doing in your non-exercise time,” lead author Dr. Lynette Craft, an adjunct assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine told HealthDay.

    So what can we do to offset these negative consequences?  Try to work more activity into the day, such as standing when taking phone calls or reading. Find reasons to walk more during the day or just move around. If you’re really up for it, you can also get a treadmill desk. But just get moving!

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    Craft, L. L., et al. (2012). Evidence that women meeting physical activity guidelines do not sit less: An observational inclinometry study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

    HealthDay. (2012). Even women who exercise sit too much. MedlinePlus.

Published On: November 30, 2012