We all like to keep fit and healthy and if you already take exercise or go to the gym you feel that is enough – but sadly sitting for too long can be deadly for older women and their overall health.
If you sit down all day you are 27% more likely to get coronary heart disease and 20% more likely to get cancer.
You may not sit all day, but if you sit for more than 11 hours then you have increased the possibility of dying prematurely by a staggering 12% when compared with those who sit four hours or less each day. These figures apply no matter how much exercise you are already doing.
The study was done at New York’s Cornell University and study author Rebecca Seguin said that even those who exercise regularly are at risk.
They said ‘The assumption has been if you are fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day,’ but in fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realise.’
This research comes from a long-term study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and looked at 93,000 post-menopausal women over a 12-year period. It found too much time sitting raised the risk of dying even when factors such as chronic disease and overall fitness were taken into account.
Women begin to lose muscle mass from the age of 35, a change that accelerates with the menopause, and too much time sitting in an office or watching TV makes it harder to regain physical strength once it has been lost.
What can you do?
Regular exercise, especially lifting weights and other muscle-building exercises, helps to counteract the decline. But the research shows that everyday movement on top of working out is vital for maintaining health.
Dr Seguin, a nutritional scientist, advised those who are middle-aged or even younger to adopt ‘small changes that make a big difference’ and start now to make a positive change. Try these:
* do not sit for longer than an hour without getting up at least once and moving even if only for a minute or two and make that a regular habit.
* going on a short bus, tube or train journey try standing for the last stop and while waiting.
* wherever you are, if you are sitting down – in a cafe for instance – then afterwards make sure you walk for at least 5-10 minutes.
* if you regularly use a lift or escalator try to use the stairs at least once a day instead.
Being proactive about health means taking care of your body and for menopausal women hormonal balance is essential. The role of progesterone in protecting the heart and reducing cancer risk is essential but at menopause many women lack this vital hormone, for although the body continues to produce oestrogen from the fat cells of the stomach, abdomen and thighs, there is not the same production of progesterone.
The level of both hormones fall naturally at menopause but the biggest challenge is that more and more women are oestrogen dominant because of the increased oestrous in the food chain and environment and from HRT. This is is often prescribed as oestrogen only, or with a synthetic progestin whose effects are not the same as the natural hormone progesterone and do not give the same protection.