Australian women are putting their heart health at risk by not being active enough – and the National Heart Foundation of Australia is urging women to get moving as Go Red for Women month comes to an end.
Go Red for Women is the Heart Foundation’s campaign during June to raise awareness of heart disease as the top killer of Australian women.
National Heart Foundation spokesperson on women’s health, Julie Anne Mitchell says physical inactivity is one of the biggest lifestyle risk factors for heart disease facing Australian women over 30.
“Physical inactivity is the only risk factor where women fare worse than men with almost 60% of women not sufficiently active for health compared with just 54% of men,” she says.
“Close to five million Australian women (aged 18+) are doing very little or no exercise at all.
“Some of the issues, like time and cost, are familiar, but one of the strongest concerns women have is fear of judgment. They worry about being the wrong size, not fit enough or not skilled enough.
“Women need to remember that little changes can make a big difference,” Mitchell says.
The Heart Foundation recommends starting with small manageable steps such as choosing social outings that involve an element of physical activity, taking the stairs over the lift, parking further away from work or getting off public transport a stop earlier can help increase physical activity levels.
“It’s easier to be active than you think. It doesn’t have to involve working out at a gym, the simple act of walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce your heart disease risk by around 35%.
“Those who travel by public transport add an extra 41 minutes of physical activity to their day, whereas those who travel to work by car, taxi or motorbike add just eights minutes,” Mitchell says.
Physical inactivity contributes to almost one quarter of the burden of cardiovascular disease in Australia (24%). It is exceeded only by high blood pressure (42%) and high blood cholesterol levels (34%) yet is a risk factor often overlooked in prevention efforts.
According to the Heart Foundation’s Blueprint for an Active Australia, the benefits for being physically active are numerous with women who increase their walking distance and speed being found to have lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2-diabetes and all-cause mortality.
“Despite the image we have of ourselves as an active nation, the data tells a different story,” says Mitchell.
“Our busy and highly mechanised lifestyles make avoiding prolonged sitting and finding time to participate in structured exercise more and more challenging.
“Our message to women is clear. Move more, sit less and your heart will thank you,” she says.