New research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows daily, mild exercise - walking or bike riding - improves the fitness of post-menopausal women who are currently sedentary, overweight or obese.
Timothy Church, M.D., Ph.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, led a team of researchers who examined the effect of various amounts of walking on more than 460 women. The results showed that as little as 15 minutes a day, five days a week of walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike improved fitness.
"The level of walking we studied was so light most people would not consider it exercise," Church said, "The message for women here is just get up and walk. You don't need a gym, you don't need fancy clothes or a stop-watch. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes that you can walk in."
The women were randomly placed into one of four groups: a control group that did not exercise and groups that exercised 72 minutes, 135 minutes, or 191 minutes of exercise per week. Church's team found that the more exercise performed the greater the increase in fitness, which was expected. However, the lowest exercise groups also saw improvements in fitness, which the team did not expect.
"The surprising news," Church said, "is that the lowest exercise group showed significant improvement. We continue to recommend 30 minutes a day of walking at least five days a week, but the data suggests just doing something - even 15 minutes a day - is better than nothing.