Women need to ‘sit less, walk more’ for heart health, studies find

Why walking is beneficial to your health.

Two major studies led by University of Buffalo researchers came to the same conclusion: Women need to get off the couch and take a walk if they want better heart health.

Women who met the federal physical activity guideline of 30 minutes a day of moderate activity exclusively through walking had a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension, according to a paper published in the November issue of the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

The study also reports that women who did not achieve recommended levels of walking but who walked at 2 mph (a 30-minute mile) or faster still had a reduced risk of hypertension, the University of Buffalo said in a press release published by Medical Xpress.


Credit: University of Buffalo

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Credit: University of Buffalo

Another study — of more than 80,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 — published in Circulation: Heart Failure, reports that more awake time spent sitting or lying down is associated with higher risk of heart failure hospitalization.

According to the researchers, women who spent more than 9.5 hours a day sitting or lying down had a 42% higher risk of developing heart failure during the nine years after first assessing sedentary time through the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. This finding was evident even after accounting for physical activity levels and heart failure risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart attack.

Both papers relied on data collected from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative. Taken together, they send a powerful message: “Sit less, walk more for heart health,” said Michael LaMonte, a research associate professor of epidemiology who was the first author on the Circulation: Heart Failure study and senior author on the Hypertension paper.

“Our work adds to growing evidence that you don’t necessarily have to be an avid jogger or cyclist to gain health benefits from physical activity,” Connor Miller, first author on the Hypertension paper, said in the press release.

“Just going for regular walks can have meaningful impact on important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, in this case blood pressure. This is especially important to appreciate for older adults, because walking is an accessible activity for all ages,” Miller added.

The University of Buffalo studies support April research at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo. That study assessed physical activity and sedentary time with death (“all cause mortality”).

The researchers noted that deaths fell sharply as activity increased — 300 minutes of light activity or 24 minutes of moderate intensity a day.

But the lowest activity levels experienced the most deaths.

The researchers said this outcome “strengthens the view that any physical activity is beneficial and likely achievable for large segments of the population.”