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Womens Exercise Habits and Long-Term Health

Dr. Qi Sun and his colleagues studied 13,535 healthy nurses from 1986 to 2001. At baseline the women were chronic-disease free and at the end of the study, they were considered "successful survivors" if they had no history of 10 major chronic diseases or coronary bypass surgery and no cognitive impairment, mental health limitations, or physical impairment.

Multivariate analysis revealed that those who exercised at the 3rd quintile of activity and above were significantly more likely to be successful survivors at age 70 than those who exercised less. Interestingly, regular exercise improved the womens' odds of remaining disease-free regardless of their body weight. However, the highest rates of successful survival went to those who were both lean and physically active.

Related studies of midlife and older women have shown a clear association between exercise and health. A 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 73,000 healthy women aged 50 - 79 had a significantly reduced risk of heart attacks if they walked briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days per week. In another study, from the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who walked one or more hours per day had a 40 percent less chance of having a stroke than women who walked less than one hour per week.

Two geriatricians, Dr. Marco Pahor of the University of Florida and Dr. Jeff Williamson of Winston-Salem, N.C., recently commented on recent research in the Archives of Internal Medicine. They pointed to "the power of higher levels of physical activity to aid in the prevention of late-life disability owing to either cognitive impairment or physical impairment, separately or together. Physical inactivity is one of the strongest predictors of unsuccessful aging for older adults and is perhaps the root cause of many unnecessary and premature admissions to long-term care."

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