Study links inactivity to 42% risk increase for heart disease in women

Light activity doesn’t have to mean jogging, or dusting off your stair master. You can make active healthier living both enjoyable and productive.

Back in February a study published in the journal Circulation warned us about the potentially fatal penalty of sitting down for too long- particularly for older women. An examination of 5,638 women between the ages of 63 and 97 posited that every hour spent sedentary is associated with a 12% risk increase for cardiovascular disease.

Just a few days ago JAMA Network published a cohort study that examined 5,861 women to provide a slightly more positive presentation of what basically amounts to the same conclusion: we should spend as little time as possible being physically idle.


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!


The women, (ages 63 to 99) observed in JAMA Network’s study were all deemed healthy before research began.  One third were African American, 17% were Hispanic and 48% were Caucasian women. Each participant was equipped with a device that measured both the amount of physical activity they engaged in and the intensity of said activities throughout their weeks for about five years. As it should happen, when researchers followed up with the pool of almost 6,000 senior women, 143 of them had developed coronary heart disease and  570 had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

So what sparred the women that remained healthy?

The value of movement

The results (though correlative) showed that older women that engaged in 5 to 10 hours of light activity a day reaped the most health benefits. More broadly, women that were more active than not throughout their day were shown to be 42% less likely to die from coronary ailments and 22% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than sedentary women, in addition to having lower BMI’s and blood pressure.

It’s important to note that light activity doesn’t have to mean jogging, or dusting off your stair master. As many experts point out, you can make active healthier living both enjoyable and productive.

Do a little dancing, clean your house or go get the mail and getting dressed even constitutes. According to Andrea LaCroix, who is the study’s lead author, “Those are examples of daily life activities that we don’t think of as exercise, but we spend a lot of time doing them and they involve movement.”

There are plenty of fun activity hacks if the idea of daily gym visits seems a little daunting- like getting a dog for instance.

Independent of the research above, dogs have been studied to reduce blood pressure and stress levels, saying nothing of the way they force us to spend more time outdoors and walking.

If the dog option isn’t viable try to cook more meals at home. Just like having a dog, the benefits of home cooked meals are pluralistic. “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they are not trying to lose weight,” according to Julia A. Wolfson, the lead author of a study published back in 2014. Moreover cooking is a form of light exercise.  Everyday Health reports that a 150-pound person that spends half an hour cooking can cut as much as 78 calories.

Point being, given the bounty of research, half of which condemns long-term sitting, and the other half of which promotes a daily dose of activity, we have very little excuse not to get moving.


You might also enjoy…

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.