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Why women need to move it or lose it after 30

Lisa Armstrong is the mother of two grown daughters, a yoga practitioner, an educator and a long-time freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness, and historical topics that affect humanity's personal and collective well-being.

Exercise crucial for women over 30

A popular song from the animated film Madagascar promotes: "Move it! Move it!" New research reveals that if you're over 30, the wisdom of that advice is even more important.

Woman doing pushups

Photo credit: acutissimages/iStock/360/Getty Images

A team of medical professionals in Australia tracked more than 30,000 women over 18, looking at risk factors like obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.

Researchers found that between the ages of 30-80, your future risk of heart disease is affected more by a lack of exercise than by any other factor, including high blood pressure, obesity and even smoking.

While this is true for younger women, remaining inactive past 30 raises the risk of heart disease an average of 33 percent for middle-aged women and 24 percent for older women.

And while the study was done in Australia, American women should let it sink in that a lack of exercise will affect their risk of heart disease too, said Dr. Michael Scott Emery, co-chair of the American College of Cardiology's Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council.

What is the recommended amount of exercise?

The Australian researchers and the American Heart Association recommend 30 minutes per day for five days a week (150 minutes) of moderate exercise.

If you can devote about 30 minutes to an hour each day to moderate-intensity exercise, your efforts will reduce your risk factors significantly. "You'll see huge improvements in your health and reduce your risk of heart disease by half," says lead researcher Dr. Wendy Brown.

What kind of exercise is best?

The type of exercise doesn't really matter much, as long as you become more physically active. "Aerobic exercise and activity is very important for cardiovascular health, and strength training maintains the ability to conduct activities of daily living in older age," Brown said. "So both are important."

Is it ever too late?

While French researchers in a separate study say that physical activity may not be able to reverse age-related damage to your cardiovascular system, they say that exercise can still play a significant role in slowing down the process.

"It's never too late to change your way of life and get more physically active," said co-author David Matelot.

"Getting active will always be beneficial for the heart and well-being. And there's no need for a high level of training for many hours a week. Using the stairs rather than the elevator or gardening regularly — all can be beneficial," he said.

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