A new study suggests women who can exercise vigorously are at significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease, cancer, and other potentially fatal health problems. The study, conducted by the European Society of Cardiology, found that compared to the fittest women, those with poor capacity for exercise were nearly four times more likely to die from heart disease. The research was presented at EuroEcho 2019, the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging.
The study, led by Dr. Jesus Peteiro, a cardiologist at the University Hospital A Coruna, relied on data that had been collected on 4,714 adult women who had been referred for treadmill exercise echocardiography, a heart disease test that involves working out on a treadmill. The average age of the study participants was 64 and 80 percent were between 50 and 75. The women were asked to walk, and then run if they could, with increasing intensity until they couldn’t go any longer. The women were declared fit if they could work out at 10 metabolic equivalents or METs, equal to walking fast up four flights of stairs or very fast up three flights without stopping to catch their breath.
The researchers then compared those who could reach the benchmark against those who couldn’t. After following the women for four and a half years, they found that the annual rate of death from heart disease was nearly four times higher among women who didn’t exercise compared to those who were fit. The annual rate of cancer deaths was double that of the fit women, while the annual rate of death from other causes was more than four times higher. The results were the same for women over 60 and less than 60, although the group under 60 was smaller.
The new research adds to what is already known about exercise and longevity. Most evidence suggests that 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise lowers the risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. This new report is considered important because it’s one of the few exercise studies that focus on how a woman’s fitness might impact her longevity. Many studies on the benefits of exercise have focused on men.