Now that the weather is improving, and spring is most definitely in the air, there’s no excuse not to get out of the house for a leisurely stroll every day to stretch those legs and take in the wonder of nature. According to a recent study, though, taking a long walk isn’t just a good way to brighten your mood and enhance your day; it can actually save your life.
New research being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session has found that walking for just 40 minutes several times per week reduces the risk of heart failure in post-menopausal women by a whopping 25 percent.
The comprehensive study, which analyzed the correlation between walking and cardiovascular health among 89,000 women over 50 over more than a decade, found that the benefits of walking were consistent regardless of a woman’s weight or other forms of exercise. It’s also not necessary to power walk; moving at an average to fast pace is enough to reap all the necessary benefits.
“We actually looked at women with four different categories of body mass index (BMI) and found the same inverse relationship between walking behavior and the risk of heart failure,” Somwail Rasla, MD, a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital, said in an ACC newsletter. “The results show that even obese and overweight women can still benefit from walking to decrease their risk of heart failure.”
“We already know that physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure, but there may be a misconception that simply walking isn’t enough,” he added. “Our analysis shows walking is not only an accessible form of exercise but almost equal to all different types of exercise that have been studied before in terms of lowering heart failure risk. Essentially, we can reach a comparable energetic expenditure through walking that we gain from other types of physical activity.”
The findings are particularly important as the medical community tries to spread awareness of the dangers of heart failure in woman, given that cardiovascular disease is commonly misinterpreted as an affliction that primarily affects men. On February 2nd, the American Heart Association asked everyone to wear red in order to spread awareness for heart disease in women.
Heart disease continues to be the number one killer among women in America, claiming the lives of approximately 500,000 women a year. And yet, studies show that only around half of women are aware of its dangers. As a woman’s age increases, so does her risk for heart failure– a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to continue pumping blood. The study showed women 75-84 years of age are three times as likely to have heart failure compared with women 65-74 years old.
The study is also interesting in light of recent research on the type of exercise that the elderly should focus on in order to extend their lives. Another recent study found that longer, less strenuous workouts are more effective in prolonging longevity than high-intensity cardio.
That doesn’t mean you have to quit the gym if, like Dennis Quaid, you’re a total gym junkie. But if you don’t want to get a gym membership, and figure that means you might as well just sit around at home, you’re very much mistaken. Just a little over half an hour outside every day can significantly improve and elongate your life.
Need a little extra motivation? Adopt a dog.
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