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Women's Health

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Women Better Couch Potatoes Than Men?

Women More Likely Than Men to Exercise Less Than Recommended Standards

WebMD Health News

Jan. 28, 2003 -- Men may be better known as couch potatoes than women, but a new survey shows many women may also deserve the title. According to a recent Gallup Poll, American women are less likely to participate in vigorous exercise and are less physically active in general than men.

The U.S. surgeon general recommends that Americans exercise at a "moderate" intensity level for at least 30 minutes a day on all or most days of the week.

Researchers found only 19% of women over 50 engage in vigorous exercise that causes a large increase in heart or breathing rates at least three times a week, compared with 24% of men in the same age group. Younger men and women were significantly more active -- with 35% of men vs. 30% of women 19-49 reporting that they regularly participate in vigorous activity.

But when it comes to moderate exercise, the numbers were a bit more even between the sexes. Slightly over half of the men and women surveyed (53% and 54% respectively) said they get moderate exercise three or more times a week. Moderate exercise includes sports or other recreational activities that cause a slight increase in breathing or heart rates, such as gardening and walking.

Researchers also grouped the respondents to the nationwide poll of 1,001 adults, which was conducted Nov. 8-11, 2002, according to the following overall activity levels:

  • High Activity -- Vigorously exercise three or more times per week.
  • Medium Activity -- Vigorously exercise one or two times a week.
  • Low Activity -- Moderately exercise three or more times per week.
  • Sedentary -- Moderately exercise fewer than three times per week with no regular vigorous exercise.

Women aged 50 and over were far less active than others, and 75% of these women fell into the low activity and sedentary categories. In contrast, only 61% of men in this same age group fell into those couch potato categories.

Young men under 50 were by far the most active group, with 61% falling into the high or medium activity levels, compared with 49% of women who met the same criteria.

Although some exercise is better than no exercise at all for general health, researchers say the results are especially important in light of recent studies that suggest vigorous exercise may be considerably more effective than moderate types of activity in reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, other studies have shown that even a 30-minute walk a day may be enough to reduce a women's risk of heart disease as well as provide other health benefits, such as improving muscle and bone strength.

SOURCE: Gallup Poll, Nov. 8-11, 2002.

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