A new study conducted by researchers from The University of Queensland has found that women who exercise regularly in their 20s can experience long-term benefits for their heart health. The study, led by Dr Gregore Iven Mielke and Professor Gita Mishra from UQ’s School of Public Health, analyzed data from 479 women who reported their physical activity levels every three years from their early 20s to their mid-40s.
The researchers wanted to explore whether women could “grow” their physical activity levels, similar to saving money in a bank account, in order to enhance their cardiovascular health. The findings of the study suggest that this is indeed possible. Women in their 40s who were the most active in their young adulthood had an average resting heart rate of around 72 beats per minute (bpm), compared to about 78 bpm for women who were the least active during this period.
Although the difference in resting heart rate may seem small, previous studies have shown that even a 1 bpm increase in resting heart rate is associated with increased mortality. A lower resting heart rate indicates a more efficient functioning of the heart. These findings imply that regular physical activity, regardless of when it is undertaken, can provide cardiovascular health benefits for women before they reach menopause.
Dr Mielke emphasizes the importance of promoting an active lifestyle for women in their 20s and 30s, as this has a positive impact on their health later in life. He also points out that understanding the effects of accumulating physical activity over a lifetime is crucial, especially for women, who may experience changes in physical activity levels due to pregnancy and childbearing.
The study utilized data from the Menarche-to-PreMenopause study, a sub-study of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. This study, which has been ongoing for over 20 years and involves 57,000 women, aims to explore various aspects of women’s health. Funding for the research came from the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care.
The researchers believe that their findings contribute valuable insights into the importance of lifelong physical activity in preventing diseases. They highlight the need for public health initiatives to encourage women to adopt an active lifestyle from an early age. By doing so, the positive health impacts can be realized even in later stages of life.
The study was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, providing scientific validation for the benefits of exercise in promoting heart health for women throughout their lifespan.