A new study has revealed that a sedentary lifestyle can pose a greater heart disease risk to women over 30 than smoking, obesity or high blood pressure.
The data has been taken from more than 32,000 participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, which for 20 years has been tracking the long-term health of women born in the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1970s.
The Australian study, which is based on over 32,000 participants and has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine today, found that inactivity remained the greatest population risk factor for heart disease among women all the way into their late 80s.
Smoking was, as expected, the most serious risk factor in women aged 22 to 27, the study from the University of Queensland found, but after the age of 30 smoking rates begin to drop off, and a widespread lack of exercise was found to be the biggest cause of heart problems across the study populations.
Public health authorities around the world have become increasingly concerned that, while the dangers of smoking, being overweight and high blood pressure are well-known and understood by the general public, physical inactivity has become a blind spot.
Last month the UK Government was warned that the country is less physically active that any time “in all human history” in a report compiled by MPs, which called for the establishment of an independent body dedicated to improving physical activity, as well as the reallocation of more transport funding from road-building to cycle and foot paths.
There have been numerous warnings on high levels of inactivity in populations of developed countries, particularly among children, but the Australian study is among the first to look specifically at the impact on women. Studies in the USA have found that men are slightly more likely than women to meet recommended healthy levels of exercise.