Previous studies have suggested that a lack of regular physical activity during older age can increase the risk for adverse health outcomes. Now, new research has revealed that older women may spend two-thirds of their waking time sedentary.

This is according to a study published in JAMA.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, led by Eric J. Shiroma, say that although recent studies have shown how sedentary behavior could pose negative effects on health, there is very little information on whether lack of physical activity has to be in long or short periods to have these effects.

With this in mind, the investigators analyzed the sedentary behavior of 7,247 women with an average age of 71, who were a part of the Women’s Health Study.

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A study suggests that older women spend around 9.7 hours each day sedentary – behavior that has been linked to a higher risk for adverse health outcomes.

All women were asked to wear an accelerometer for a period of 7 days while they were awake. On average, the women wore the accelerometers for 14.8 hours each day.

The investigators also analyzed the women’s body mass index (BMI) and smoking status to examine their sedentary behavior in relation to these factors.

Results revealed that the women spent an average of 65.5% of their time sedentary, which is the equivalent of 9.7 hours each day.

The researchers found that as age and BMI increased, so did the total sedentary time and the number of periods of sedentary behavior.

Furthermore, the team found that the majority of sedentary periods occurred in shorter durations. Around 4.8% of sedentary periods lasted at least 30 minutes, and these half-hour periods represented approximately 31.5% of total sedentary time.

Commenting on their findings, the researchers say:

“If future studies confirm the health hazards of sedentary behavior and guidelines are warranted, these data may be useful to inform recommendations on how to improve such behavior.”

The investigators note that although one weakness of their research is that they could not determine a woman’s postural information, such as whether they were standing or sitting, it is unlikely an older woman would stand for long periods.

They add that their study provides a detailed analysis of sedentary behavior patterns among a population of older women, and their study is more that six times larger than previous studies of a similar nature.

Previous research has detailed the benefits of exercise for older individuals. Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that starting exercise later in life can still significantly improve health, while other research suggests that exercising for 150 minutes each week may be the best treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.