Physical Inactivity and Heart Disease in Women

woman in swimsuit facing away from view standing at the edge of a pool

Couch potatoes, there’s no easy way to put this. So here goes: Being sedentary could kill you. It’s time to get moving.

You’ve probably heard this before, but a lack of physical activity comes with great risks including blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other heart related problems. On the other hand, becoming more active can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 mm Hg, which is the same reduction in blood pressure you’d get by anti-hypertensive medications. Physical activity can also boost your levels of good cholesterol.

Becoming more active keeps the No. 1 killer in women at bay by reducing heart disease by 30-40 percent and stroke by 25 percent in people who do regular moderate to vigorous activity. Not too shabby, right?

Aside from its heart health benefits, with a more physically active life you can look forward to:

  • More energy
  • Less stress, tension, depression and anxiety
  • A better overall mood
  • An easier time falling asleep and sleeping soundly
  • Increased muscle strength and bone loss prevention
  • Delaying or preventing chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging

You don’t have to become gym rat

For each hour of regular exercise you get, you gain about two hours of additional life – even if you don’t start until middle age. So start moving. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and you’ll be on your way to a heart healthy life.

If you’re new to exercise, try moderate forms of physical activity like brisk walking. You can also incorporate small changes into your daily routine like taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Every little bit helps.

Increasing your physical activity is important, but it’s equally as important to talk to your doctor about the intensity of your workout, as heart disease survivor Mary Leah Coco did.

Mary was a long-time athlete who took up swimming in lieu of more aggressive physical activities. Not only did she find swimming a safer alternative, but it was also something she could do with her entire family – a winning solution all around.

If swimming isn’t your thing, don’t fret. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, like housework, gardening, jogging, bicycling, playing tennis, walking the dog or dancing. It doesn’t have to feel like a chore.

If you think about it, 30 minutes isn’t a lot. So instead of spending your free time in front of the TV, get up and move. A recent study found that middle-aged adults who were more active during their leisure time had lower levels of indicators of inflammation of the arteries. And people with less inflammation tend to a have lower risk for heart disease.

To learn more, visit our Go Red Get Fit section where you can get tips to help you incorporate more physical activity into your daily life.