Older women: preventing heart attacks and cancer

The findings of a big US study into the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on older women has recently been highlighted in a UK newspaper.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, was one of the biggest involving 93,000 post menopausal American women. The study demonstrated that women who were inactive for more than 11 hours daily were more likely to die prematurely from all causes, compared with those who only sat down for 4 hours/day or less. The 11 hour group was also at a  higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease, or developing cancer.

Surprisingly, the study also showed that this might still be a problem for those women who, like me,  factor exercise into their life.

The advice seems to be that if, like me,  you spend a lot of time at the computer in either an office or writing for a living, it's important that you get up and move around  every hour. Believe me, as a writer, I know what it's like when you're on a roll.  You do just want to keep going and then, before you know it, 4 hours have passed and you haven't moved from the computer desk!

In the world of work, with increasing  pressures for performance and targets, you might think that you haven't got time to spend 5 minutes away from your desk doing non-computer based work. However, it's worth bearing in mind that, in the UK  at least,  this is actually a legislative requirement. So you do have health and safety law on your side.

From my point of view, anthropologically, our bodies are not designed to sit for long periods and certainly not at computer desks. So, remember.  Only spend an hour at a time at the computer or watching TV. Then move around and do some other activity, even if it's only for a few minutes.

If your work involves a lot of driving look for ways to break this up  and incorporate aerobic exercise to counter-balance the effects of long periods of sitting. If you're on the road and have to to stop overnight at a hotel, make use of  a gym or a pool if there is one. Consider whether you can replace some of this driving by either using public transport or walking. (Not always an option in parts of the USA!) If you drive and sit for long periods at a computer this may be even more challenging. I know after a long day at work it's tempting to just sit and rest in the evening.  However, from a health point of view, it now seems that over time your health will significantly suffer as a result if that's all you do.

As with so much of this health advice the challenge is incorporating it into our lives. So - whether you've retired, have punishing deadlines to meet, or whatever your situation, - if a longer, healthier life is what you want keeping physically active throughout the day seems to be the message here.

So be mindful and act with awareness when making positive lifestyle choices and enjoy the empowerment that this brings.

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