Moving 6,000 or more steps a day-no matter how-adds up to a healthier life for midlife women. That level of physical activity decreases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a diabetes precursor and a risk for cardiovascular disease), showed a study published online this month in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.
Although other studies have shown the value of structured exercise in lowering health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, this study revealed that habitual physical activity-whether it comes from exercising or just activities of daily living-has the power to improve women's health.
For the study, Brazilian researchers had 292 women, 45 to 72 years old, wear pedometers and recorded their daily steps. They also measured blood cholesterol, blood sugar along with waist and hip measurement to gauge abdominal obesity, a risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Women who took 6,000 or more steps per day were considered active and those who took fewer inactive.
The active women were much less likely than their inactive peers to be obese and have metabolic syndrome or overt diabetes, whether or not they had gone through menopause-and whether or not they were using hormone therapy.
For midlife women, it looks like the journey to health begins with just 6,000 steps, the equivalent of walking for an hour a day. These steps can be accumulated steps throughout the day rather than one long walk.
Consider wearing a pedometer each day so you can see how many steps you accumulate. Aim for at least 6000 steps a day. Research shows that people who set a goal with a pedometer are more likely to increase their physical activity, lose weight and lower their blood pressure.