Women who engage in moderate amounts of regular exercise are substantially less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, or have a stroke, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford has found.
The Million Woman Study analysed the physical activity of over a million women aged 50 and over in the UK. It found that women who exercised regularly had a 20% lower risk of having a stroke, developing cardiovascular disease and experiencing blood clots. Some activities such as walking and cycling had a particularly strong link with lower risk.
Dr Miranda Armstrong, the study's lead author and a physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said: 'Through this research we wanted to improve our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and the risk of heart disease in middle aged women. Positively, the research showed that every effort to be physically active could contribute to improving heart health, with those women who undertook physical activity just once a week having a lower risk of heart disease than those who did nothing.'
The study also found that more strenuous exercise did not have as much an effect as regularity. The risk was lowered just as much in women who exercised moderately between four and six times a week, as in those who exercised strenuously two to three times a week.
Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'This research further reinforces the evidence that you don't have to run marathons or spend hours at the gym to improve your heart health. Even if you don't have much time to spare, just a couple of weekly sessions to get your heart rate going can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.'