Do you know how many steps you take each day? A typical adult female takes about 5,117, which is just about a two to two and a half mile walk, and adding 1000 more steps may be enough to lower the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A study from Brazil came to this conclusion after comparing the number of daily steps taken by 292 women age 45 to 72 as measured by pedometers. The researchers also checked the women’s cholesterol, blood sugar and waist and hip measurements in order to determine the presence of abdominal obesity, a risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. All told, the investigators determined that taking 6,000 or more steps daily decreases the overall risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Surprisingly, it didn't matter whether those 6,000 steps were part of a woman's normal physical activity in her daily life or were performed during an exercise program. The study was published online in November 2012 by the journal Menopause.
My take? Daily exercise is especially important for midlife women for a number of reasons: weight bearing exercise such as walking can help keep their bones and heart strong and also lower the risk of breast cancer. Regular physical activity may also help reduce hot flashes, counter depression, sharpen thinking, and promote good sleep. This new study is interesting because it appears to quantify the amount of activity needed to rein in the risks of diabetes and metabolic syndrome that can increase at midlife, and suggests that normal daily activity - not necessarily a structured exercise program - can do the trick.