Is sitting putting you at risk?

Jun 2, 2014 at 9:14 p.m. ET

Researchers have pinpointed an important risk factor for heart disease in women over 30, and it's not what you may think. Read on, but not before grabbing your sneakers.

Lack of movement may be the greatest risk factor for heart disease in Australian women over the age of 30.

Researchers from the University of Queensland recently examined the causes of heart disease risk among women of all ages in Australia, and they found that physical inactivity actually ranks higher than smoking, obesity or high blood pressure for women over 30 years of age.

Data was examined from more than 32,000 women participating in the "Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health", a study which tracks the health of women who were born at various intervals between 1920 and 1978.

While smoking was still the most important risk factor for women up to the age of 30 (a group in which heart disease is rare), it was physical inactivity that caused the researchers to argue that more emphasis should be placed on curbing Australia's worrying trend of physical inactivity.

More specifically, the researchers argued that if all of those women who are currently living fairly inactive lives could up their physical activity levels to recommended amounts, deaths would be prevented — some 2,000 of them.

In other words, ladies, it's time to get moving.

Move it

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week — which translates to just over 20 minutes per day.

Increasing your physical activity levels has plenty of health benefits, including:

  • Improved fitness and overall health and wellbeing
  • Improved mood
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Stronger bones, muscles and joints
  • Lowered blood cholesterol

Upping the amount of movement you get every day will also contribute to lowering your blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight and BMI (body mass index) — curbing two other important heart disease risk factors. Living an active, fit and healthy lifestyle will encourage you to quit smoking, too.

Here's our advice on quitting smoking for good >>

Woman doing situps

How to incorporate movement into your day

If you shudder at the very thought of the word exercise, fear not: Moving doesn't have to mean a rigorous exercise regimen. Here are some ways you can consistently achieve a moderate amount of movement in your day:

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift or the escalator
  • Walk to the shops instead of driving
  • Take your lunch break outside and walk around when you've finished eating
  • Get up from your desk and walk around the office every hour
  • Do sit-ups and squats in the mornings or the evenings
  • Go for a walk with friends instead of meeting for coffee
  • Try a new exercise class for something social and fun
  • Go swimming to give your entire body a gentle workout

More on women's health and movement

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