No one argues that regular exercise not only improves overall health and fitness levels, it also cuts the risk for many life altering, chronic diseases. Now it seems a new study has found that American women aren’t as likely as their male counterparts to be getting the 30 minutes recommended amount of exercise daily.
So, what is moderate to vigorous exercise? It’s the kind of workout where you’re working hard enough to get your heart rate up and start to sweat. You can talk but not sing a song aloud. Examples of moderately intense aerobic activity include walking fast, water aerobics, biking on level ground, playing doubles tennis and mowing the lawn with a push mower.
Vigorous intensity activity has you breathing hard and fast, with your heart rate up quite a lot. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Examples of actions at this level of intensity include jogging/running, swimming laps, biking fast or up hills, playing singles tennis or playing basketball.
The most recent research, conducted at Oregon State University included over 1,000 men and women from a nationally representative sample. Examining the data, the researchers saw that women only got about 18 minutes exercise a day, while men got the full 30 minutes. Of the study population just over one in three women had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, and one in five was reporting symptoms of depression.
What sets this study apart from others is that it used an objective measure of activity. The subjects wore a device known as an accelerometer that is able to measure how much activity they were doing each day. And though females in the study population did have better health behavior, not getting that full 30 minutes (or more) puts them at a disadvantage healthwise.
Those who took at least the recommended amount of exercise had a lower chance of reporting being depressed, were less likely to experience problems like high cholesterol and therefore less apt to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. It was noted during the study that being depressed ups the risk you would carry abdominal fat, and perhaps have insulin resistance, both conditions that are risk factors for potentially dangerous metabolic syndrome.
As to why women aren’t getting that all-important 30 minutes per day of exercise there are varied explanations…
Some experts suggest that it is around age 5 to 6 years old that exercise patterns begin, and since parents are often more concerned about the safety of girls, they restrict their activity more than that of boys. Another suggestion is that women being caregivers just can’t find more than 18 minutes per day of time for themselves. Many can’t find even that.
Exercise won’t just help keep your body healthy and your weight under control, it will also cut the risk of metabolic syndrome. This is the name given to a group of indicators (high cholesterol and blood pressure, extra body weight) that raise your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even debilitating stroke.
The take home message of the work – women need to make an effort to get the recommended amount of exercise (30 minutes or more) a day. It needs to be either moderately or vigorously intense, and should not include the time you spend warming up or cooling down. Even ten minutes at a time is fine… if that’s all you can fit in for now. Just be sure that you end the day having reached the all-important 30-minute mark.