Women are less likely than men to get the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, putting them at greater risk of developing obesity-related metabolic syndrome, new research says.
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when a person has several key conditions – high cholesterol, high blood pressure and extra weight around the middle part of the body – that raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Oregon State University researchers said they designed the study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, to examine whether physical activity could combat depression and metabolic syndrome, and ended up finding a gender difference.
"The results indicate that regular physical activity participation was associated with positive health outcomes for both men and women; however, there was a greater strength of association for women," said lead researcher Paul Loprinzi. "Those who get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day are less likely to be depressed, less likely to have high cholesterol and less likely to have metabolic syndrome."
For the study, Loprinzi and his colleagues tracked more than 1,000 people, and found that women were getting only about 18 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily, compared to men who averaged 30 minutes of exercise daily.
While their study did not determine why women may not enough exercise, researchers said physical activity patterns often begin in childhood – as early as age 5 or 6.
Loprinzi said this pattern tends to continue into adulthood, and that overall confidence may be a factor.
"Some evidence indicates that women, compared to men, have less confidence in their ability to overcome their exercise-related barriers," Loprinzi said, adding that women also often cite a lack of time to exercise due to child-rearing.