Older Women Inactive Most Of Day
December 18, 2013

Older Women Are Inactive For Two-Thirds Of The Day

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

While many studies and public health experts have been railing against being physically inactive for hours on end, a team of researchers from the US and Australia has decided to measure the amount of daily physical activity undertaken by typical older women in a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The international team found older women in their study were inactive for about two-thirds of their waking hours, but had short bursts of activity an average of nine times per hour.

"This is the first part of an ongoing study, and the first paper to look at the patterns of activity and sedentary behaviors," lead author Eric Shiroma, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told HealthDay.

"Some research says that sitting for long periods is harmful and the recommendation is that we should get up every 30 minutes, but there's little hard data available on how much we're sitting and how often we get up and how measures such as these affect our health risks," he added.

In the study, researchers recruited over 7,000 women with an average age of 71 years old. Participants were instructed to wear accelerometers for almost seven days during their waking hours, an average of 15 hours per day. The devices were able to measure movement, but couldn’t determine if the wearer was standing or sitting, only if they were active or inactive.

The study team found the women were physically inactive for an average of 66 percent of their day, equal to about 9.7 hours. Participants averaged 86 sedentary periods during the day and moved, for at least one minute, an average of nine times an hour.

Researchers also found that older women and heavier women tended to have longer sedentary periods with fewer breaks for activity.

"I was kind of surprised. I thought the women would be sitting more, for longer periods," he said. "Now we need to know if it matters. Does sitting for five, 10 or 30 minutes mean something different for your health than sitting longer?

“It’s too early to know a lot of these answers,” Shiroma told Businessweek. “I would like to be able to describe to people what an active lifestyle should be outside of just physical activity. There’s a lot of activity we can do without just going to the gym. It’s a far more complex relationship than just your 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.”

Dr. Yonette Davis, chief of geriatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, said she wasn’t surprised by the findings.

"It's what I see in the geriatric world," Davis said. "The routine of working and taking care of the kids has changed. They don't have that nine-to-five routine any more, and their lifestyle just isn't as rigorous.

"You have to mentally transition yourself when you get to the end of taking care of kids or working. You have to change and find other activities," she advised. "Tell yourself, 'This is a different point in my life. I need to look for other outlets of interest now that my kids no longer need me and I'm finished with my job.' Go out with friends, volunteer, get involved with your church, go back to school. Don't wind yourself all the way down."