How much do you need to work out?
We all know that one good way to stave off the middle-aged spread is to exercise. But how much exercise do we need? Well, we now have an answer -- at least for women.
A big new study says women who are middle-aged or older need to spend about 60 minutes every day doing moderate exercise just to avoid gaining weight. That's right: an hour every day.
The findings come from an analysis of data collected between 1992 and 2007 from 34,079 healthy U.S. women who participated in the federally funded Women's Health Study, an ongoing project that examines a host of health issues. It is being conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Over the 13-year period, women who ate a typical diet but on a daily basis engaged in about an hour's worth of moderate physical activity -- such as brisk walking -- were significantly less likely to pack on the pounds than those who were more sedentary, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women who exercised less than an hour a day were significantly more likely to gain at least five pounds. The researchers caution that was only for those who started out at a healthy weight.
That means that the federal government's current recommendation that everyone get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every week -- about 30 minutes a day for five days a week -- isn't enough to maintain a healthy weight, the researchers point out.
They stress that any amount of exercise is better than none, and the more the better. And just doing about 30 minutes a day for five days a week will reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and other health problems. But the findings underscore how much is needed to stay really fit.
I-Min Lee of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the study, says it remains unclear if the findings would hold true for men, because there are some important differences between men and women. More women are obese, for example. And men tend to be more physically active during their leisure time.
March 24, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity , Women's Health
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