Women's Health

Fewer Women Than Men Meet Exercise Goal

U.S. women are less likely than their male counterparts to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, the recommended minimum. This raises their odds for health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Photo of woman pulling on gym apparatus

In a recent study of 1,146 women and men, Oregon State University researchers found that women got only an average of 18 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, compared with 30 minutes for men.

For the women who did get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, they were less likely to have high cholesterol or metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that makes it more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. And, they were also less likely to be depressed.

"It's pretty striking what happens to you if you don't meet that 30 minutes a day of activity," says Bradley Cardinal, Ph.D., at Oregon State University. "Women in our sample had better health behavior - they were much less likely to smoke, for instance - but the lack of activity still puts them at risk."

Higher risks

Dr. Cardinal says depression makes health problems worse and increases the risk of developing abdominal fat and insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

The National Women's Health Information Center says that regular exercise can help women reduce those risk factors and even help limit some of the physical challenges of aging, including reducing the risk for hip fracture, lung cancer, and endometrial cancer. Exercise also helps increase bone density, improve brain function in older women, and boost sleep quality.

The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Heart Association/American College of Sports Medicine - Physical Activity and Public Health

American Psychological Association - Exercise Keeps Your Psyche Fit

National Women's Health Information Center - Physical Activity (Exercise) Fact Sheet

June 2012

3-Step Exercise Guide

Making exercise part of your daily life isn't hard if you make it a priority. To do that, you need to develop goals and an exercise plan that matches your needs and interests.

These three steps can help you define your personal goals and put them into action:

  • First step. Decide what your goal is. Do you need to lose weight? Maintain a healthy weight? Reduce your risk for heart disease? Knowing what motivates you can help you stay focused.

  • Second step. Think about the type of exercise that will meet your goals. If you're not sure what exercise is best for your needs, talk with your health care provider or a personal trainer. The most effective exercise program includes a combo of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance and flexibility exercises. Plan on exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day, most days of the week.

  • Third step. Choose your workout time wisely. Pick the time of day when you have the most energy and enthusiasm. Make exercise a priority. When you plan your week, schedule time for exercise, and treat it like an appointment that you can't break.

If you haven't exercised in a while, be sure to check with your health care provider before starting a fitness program.

If you end up sliding back into old habits, don't consider yourself a failure. It just means that you're human. Try to look at a setback as part of the process of making change. If you skip a few workouts, make a plan to simply start again the next day.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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