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Fifteen Minutes of Daily Exercise Pays Off for Older Women

One of the few certainties in life is that good health begins with eating a balanced diet and frequent exercise. But the older we get, the less likely we are to exercise. A new study of 464 U.S. women who lead a sedentary life shows that even 15 minutes a day of physical activity can improve fitness. VOA's Melinda Smith has details.

For busy women, like Liz Tucker, finding the time to exercise can be challenging. "I would really like to do it more often, but I work a lot," she says.

But a new study of women who fit her profile shows that even 15 minutes a day can make a difference. The research – published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – focused on postmenopausal women who are at high risk for heart disease.

Dr. Timothy Church and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana helped compare various amounts of exercise.

"We looked at 75 minutes, 150 minutes and 225 minutes of basically walking, and kind of no surprise, we saw that the more exercise you did, the more you improved your fitness,” said the doctor. “The surprise we did have was we found the 75 minutes a week group not only did not lose fitness, but they actually gained fitness during the course of the study."

The researchers found that these women gained stamina on the treadmill and lost abdominal fat. Again, Dr. Church: "Weight that is in the belly or abdomen puts you at high risk for diabetes, for cholesterol problems, for hypertension problems. So it is an exciting result."

The women in the study exercised three to four times a week at a good pace. Researchers say a recommended time is 15 to 30 minutes per mile, or about one point six kilometers.

Liz Tucker says she enjoys the exercise. "I think mentally as well as physically it makes you feel better, just to think you're doing something for yourself."

While 15 minutes of daily exercise has been proven to make a difference, health experts recommend that older women – and men – try to work activity into their daily lives in other ways. They say a little is good, but 'more' is always better.