THURSDAY, May 31, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of exercise help prevent stiffening of the arteries in middle-aged people, a small new study says.
Arterial stiffening, which has been shown to occur with age and inactivity, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
This Indiana University study included 21 men and 28 women. Of those 49 participants, 33 were highly active U.S. Masters Swimmers who did more than 200 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. The other participants were either moderately or completely inactive.
The highly active people had far less arterial stiffness than the others. The researchers also found little difference between men and women in the highly active group, but considerable difference between men and women in the inactive and moderately active group. In that group, men had less arterial stiffness than women, according to a university news release.
"Oddly, women, particularly the inactive women, show the greatest risk for cardiovascular disease as compared with other groups," study author Maleah Holland, a graduate student in the university's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, wrote. "Thus, conversely, habitually high levels of physical activity may pose a greater benefit for women than for men."
This finding may be due to the fact that inactive women are more sedentary than inactive men, the researchers suggested.
The study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in San Francisco.
This research "reinforces the idea that activity could be more influential than aging on some health factors," Joel Stager, professor and director of the university's Counsilman Center, in the department of kinesiology, said in the news release.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers tips to help you get active.