The proportion of women aged over 45 doing 30 minutes of exercise on most days jumped from 45 to 54 per cent in the three years to 2004 as an increasing number of middle-aged women took up regular walking, according to a Federal Government report released today.
The report says research around the world provides evidence that women in this age group can gain considerable health benefits from regular exercise. It cites 14 international studies showing physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 28 to 58 per cent.
Diabetes risk could fall by as much as 46 per cent and six out of 10 studies on exercise and breast cancer found the risk of getting the disease fell by up to 67 per cent for those who were physically active.
Health costs for middle-aged women were 26 per cent higher for those who were sedentary compared with moderately active women.
Australian guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity on most days. But the report says even 60 minutes a week can bring benefits, writes Mark Metherell in Sydney Morning Herald.
Higher levels of activity may be necessary to prevent some conditions, including breast and colon cancer, the report says.
The Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, said the rise in active middle-aged women was "great news".
"The report shows women can benefit from exercise, even if they have been inactive for a long time," she said.
The findings support the Rudd Government's drive for people to exercise for their health's sake and come as another report says Australian baby boomers will have to do much more to prevent chronic disease to combat the soaring cost of health services for an ageing population.
Another report, a national survey commissioned by Fujitsu, says most baby boomers fear a bleak retirement, being ill-prepared to finance their later years.
The Fujitsu report says more than 5 million Australians will retire in the next 20 years and 75 per cent are worried they will not be able to pay for medical care. Two-thirds do not believe they have enough superannuation.
Australia's approach to health care is " not sustainable because of the large number of baby boomers who will require care ... substantial changes are needed to address care in a community setting", the Fujitsu report says.