Walking-Side-Waist_downMiddle-aged women who are physically active a few times each week have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than inactive women, according to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. More frequent physical activity does not appear to lower the risks any further, researchers said.

In the study, women who performed strenuous physical activity — enough to cause sweating or a faster heartbeat — two to three times per week were about 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared with women who reported little or no activity. Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening and cycling.

Among active women, there was little evidence that more frequent activity could further reduce a woman’s risks.

“Inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly,” said Miranda Armstrong, M.Phil., Ph.D, the study’s lead author and a physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “However, to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, women don’t need to do very frequent activity, as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that of moderately frequent activity.”

The study included 1.1 million U.K. women with no history of cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood clots or diabetes who joined the Million Women Study between 1996 and 2001. The average age of enrolled women at the start of the study was 56.

Women reported their level of physical activity at the beginning of the study and again three years later, and were followed for an average of nine years. Researchers examined hospital admissions and deaths in relation to women’s responses.

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