Young Women and Heart Health

Many studies have shown that exercise is good for women’s heart health. Most have focused on middle-aged or older women, however. A new study links physical activity to a lower risk of heart disease in younger women, too.

If you’re a woman under age 45 who hasn’t exercised for a while, take heart. The findings suggest that you don’t have to run a marathon or work out every day to reap heart-healthy rewards.

Young Women Heart HealthSimply Walking Can Make a Difference

The study, published in Circulation, included more than 97,000 women. All were ages 27 to 44 when the research began. Over the next two decades, researchers tracked the women’s exercise habits. They also recorded which women developed coronary heart disease (CHD), a condition that can lead to heart attacks.

Physical activity was associated with a lower risk for CHD in these young women. Those with the highest level of activity—equivalent to at least five hours of vigorous-intensity exercise or 10 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week—had a 25 percent lower risk, compared to those who didn’t exercise.

The activity didn’t need to be strenuous to have this effect. Even brisk walking was linked to a reduced risk.

You Can Exercise on Your Timetable

If you’re a young woman who wants to cut your heart disease risk:

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise. Examples of moderate exercise include walking fast, cycling on level ground, and doing water aerobics. Examples of intense exercise include running, cycling on steep hills, and swimming laps.
  • Fit in workouts at your convenience. In the study, it didn’t matter whether women spread their exercise throughout the week or crammed it into a few long sessions. The total weekly amount of exercise was what made the key difference for their hearts.

Learn more about heart health at WCHN: