Health Team

Exercise Shows Benefits for Post-Menopausal Women

Posted May 15, 2007 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2007 7:06 p.m. EDT

Many people say it's hard to find time to exercise, but research has shown 2.5 hours of exercise a week could help reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, a new study shows half that amount can help post menopausal women.

Liz Tucker walks for about an hour once a week.

“I would really like to do it more often, but I work a lot,” Tucker said.

But could she fit in at least 15 minutes a day, five days a week? According to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that may be enough for sedentary post-menopausal women.

As a group, those women are at high risk for heart disease.

“People who have low cardiorespiratory fitness are at very high risk of dying prematurely,” said Dr. Timothy Church with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Researchers in a six-month study looked at how much exercise post-menopausal women need to maintain their fitness.

“The lowest exercise dose -- the 75-minutes a week group -- actually not only did not lose fitness, but they actually gained fitness during the six months,” Church said.

Those health benefits didn’t include lower blood pressure or weight loss, but it did include better stamina in treadmill tests and loss of abdominal fat. Fat in the belly puts you at higher risk for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol problems.

Women in the study walked or rode exercise bikes three or four times a week.

“A good recommendation for walking is somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes a mile, Whatever you're comfortable with,” Church said.

That's good news for Liz Tucker. She'll increase her weekly minutes and spread them out over more days to fit them into her busy schedule.

“It makes you feel better just to know you're doing something for yourself, so I'm going to try it,” Tucker said.

Researchers say the women who exercised the most also go the most benefit, but all who exercised saw some improvement.