Sitting May Have Big Impact of Older Women’s Health

Older women are more physically active than older men. However, being sedentary has a more significant impact on women than men. A new study looking at the sitting habits of women over the age of 55 has found that the more time a woman sat, the more likely she was to be at risk for diabetes and heart disease. The heightened risk was even more pronounced for women who were overweight.

The women in the study were all postmenopausal and 63 years-old on average. Hispanic women in the group tended to sit for 8.5 hours a day, non-Hispanic women sat more than nine hours a day. Each additional hour that they sat per day increased their fasting blood sugar by six percent and their insulin resistance by more than seven percent. And each additional 15 minutes in one sitting period upped blood sugar by seven percent and insulin resistance by nine percent.

The researchers looked at over 500 postmenopausal women because they are, as a group, more sedentary than their younger counterparts. Additionally, symptoms of heart problems become more pronounced after menopause. In addition to looking at women’s blood sugar and insulin resistance, they also considered BMI, waist size and triglyceride levels. All of these heart health risk factors worsened the more sedentary the person was.  

The findings of this study build upon earlier research including our own, which showed, among older women, that too much time in sedentary behaviors was associated with higher risk for diabetes and heart disease,” explained lead study author Dr. Dorothy Sears, professor of nutrition at the Arizona State Univ. “Reducing sitting time improves glucose control and blood flow, and engaging in physical activities, even light-intensity daily life activities like cooking and shopping, show favorable associations with reduced mortality risk and prevention of heart disease and stroke.”

Even if walking is beyond a person, merely moving can get your pulse up and improve circulation. Anything that adds to your exercise for the day is excellent. Movement is key, and improving blood flow throughout your body helps your heart. Exercise strengthens the muscle and improves blood flow even once you’re finished.

According to the report, doctors shouldn’t just be recommending people get more exercise, they should be suggesting people stand more. “Health care providers should encourage patients, including older adults, to reduce their sitting time,” said Sears, “take breaks in… sitting time and replace sitting with brief periods of standing or light physical activity.”
February 21, 2020
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