The Walk to Good Health

Walking and activity equal to 6000 steps or more helped middle aged women stay disease free

(RxWiki News) Take one step forward, two steps back. Take 6,000 steps forward and forget going back, especially when it comes to women's health.

Walking these steps or more each day can lower the chances of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease in middle-aged women, a new study has found.

The activity can help middle-aged women keep healthy, independent of menopause status, according to researchers.

"Wear a pedometer to track your steps."

The study, led by Veronica Colpani, PT, from the Gynecological Endocrinology Unit at the Hospital de Clınicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil, included almost 300 women between 45 and 72 years of age who were randomly chosen in a Brazilian city. About 80 percent were white and almost 78 percent were post-menopausal. Another 16 percent were pre- and perimenopausal and 6 percent had had a hysterectomy.

The women wore pedometers along their hips to count the number of steps they took each day for a week. The pedometers were set based on each participant's weight and the distance between their steps. They were instructed to do their normal activities and take off the pedometer while showering or sleeping at the end of the day.

Researchers measured the participants' blood sugar levels and cholesterol as well as the size of their hips and waist. This helps measure the risk of abdominal obesity and thus the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

More than 68 percent of the participants were considered inactive, or took less than 6,000 steps a day. The participants were told not to change their physical activity during the study. The researchers found that overall, participants walked more than 5,000 steps a day on average. Inactive women walked about 3,500 steps while active ones counted more than 9,000.

Active women were less likely to be obese and have metabolic syndrome. Of the 95 participants with obesity, almost 77 percent came from the inactive group. Among the inactive group, 78 had metabolic syndrome, versus about 22 in the active group. And about 84 percent of those found with diabetes came from the inactive group.

For women who had gone through menopause, during which the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease naturally increases, habitual physical activity helped lower the risk.

More physically active women were less likely to smoke. And in line with previous research, more active women also had smaller hips, waist and body mass index, which measures their height and weight together.

"Menopausal transition and post-menopause are known to be associated not only with increasing BMI and abdominal obesity but also with a worse cardiovascular risk profile and development of metabolic syndrome," the authors wrote in their report.

"Evidence suggests that moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, independent of obesity, and that a higher number of steps are probably associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its individual cardiovascular disease risk factors," the authors wrote in their report.

The authors note that the pedometers may have missed some steps since the device cannot be used under water. Other methods could be used to measure physical activity. They also did not look at how age and whether women hit menopause affected the level of inactivity amongst the women.

The study, supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Technólogico, was published online November 19 in the journal Menopause by the North American Menopause Society. The authors report no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures. 

Review Date: 
November 27, 2012