Midlife can be especially challenging for women as menopause-related hormonal changes can impact mental and physical functioning. A new study finds that walking, or moving more than 6,000 steps a day, can improve mental and physical health of midlife women.
Researchers discovered this level of physical activity decreases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a diabetes precursor and a risk for cardiovascular disease).
The research is published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.
It is well-established that structured exercise can lower health risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A key distinction of this study is the finding that habitual physical activity — whether it comes from exercising or just activities of daily living — has the power to improve women’s health.
Brazilian researchers recorded the daily activity of 292 women, between the ages 45 to 72 years old, as they wore pedometers. Investigators also monitored cholesterol and blood sugar, and waist and hip measurement (to gauge abdominal obesity — a known risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease).
Researchers classified women who took 6,000 or more steps per day as active and those who took fewer as inactive.
The active women were much less likely than the inactive ones to be obese and have metabolic syndrome or diabetes, whether or not they had gone through menopause–when these risks usually go up–and whether or not they were using hormone therapy.
Researchers believe the 6,000 step-activity target can help midlife women improve and in fact maximize mental and physical health as they move through middle age.