This Is Still The Best Way For Women Over 50 To Live Longer, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.

Image by Lumina / Stocksy

While we recognize that a simple walk can have positive physical and mental health effects and that sleep is vital to health and well-being, it's also important to remember the benefits of more challenging exercise. The idea that working out is good for your health is not new, but during a scientific conference on Saturday, researchers supported the age-old advice.

During EuroEcho 2019, the European Society of Cardiology revealed that women who can exercise vigorously decrease their risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other health-related causes. 

The study, led by Jesús Peteiro, Ph.D., from the University Hospital of Coruña, Spain, analyzed 4,714 adult women who were at risk of heart disease. These women were asked to take a treadmill heart stress test, where doctors monitored heart rhythm and blood pressure during exercise. 

Participants, the majority of whom were 50 to 75 years old, walked or ran on the treadmill based on their physical abilities. They started slow and increased speed and intensity with time, finally stopping when they reached exhaustion. 

Researchers compared women who reached 10 metabolic equivalents (METs) or more to women who could not reach 10 METs of exercise. To understand the different workloads, 10 METs is equivalent to walking up four flights of stairs or walking up three flights at a very fast pace, both without stopping. The women who could achieve 10 METs of exercise were considered to have a good exercise capacity.

Nearly five years later, the researchers took health assessments of the same women and found that 345 had died of cardiovascular-related deaths, 164 died of cancer, and 203 died of other miscellaneous causes. 

Looking at data from the treadmill tests and the annual death rates, the researchers found that cardiovascular deaths were about four times higher in women with poor exercise capacity, cancer deaths were doubled, and other deaths were more than four times higher than women with good fitness. 

Findings specifically provide information about the functioning of the heart's left ventricle (responsible for pumping blood) during exercise. Women who had poor heart functioning were more likely to die from cardiovascular issues. However, heart performance alone did not indicate cancer or other deaths. 

"Women whose hearts work normally during exercise are unlikely to have a cardiovascular event," Peteiro said during the conference. "But if their exercise capacity is poor, they are still at risk of death from cancer or other causes." 

The information proves that getting your heart rate up supports healthy heart functioning and can greatly reduce the risks of death in middle-aged and older women. Since the research is in favor of vigorous exercise, try adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or cardio to your routine.

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