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"We know walking is an excellent form of exercise, but research has been mixed on how successful a walking program can be in changing biological markers such as cholesterol, weight, blood pressure," said Pamela Stewart Fahs. She is associate dean, professor, and chair in rural nursing at the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing in New York.
For the study, Fahs and a graduate student tracked 70 women in a rural area of New York state. The study participants were asked to walk briskly at least 150 minutes a week for 10 weeks. The women ranged in age from 29 to 79, and had an average age of 55.
At the start of the study, the researchers calculated the women's risk of a heart attack within the next 10 years.
Halfway through the 10 weeks, the participants were given an incentive via a raffle to increase their steps.
At the end of the 10-week period, the investigators checked the weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels of the participants. All of these factors had improved, suggesting that walking can help lower heart disease risk in a short time, according to the report.
"I believe there is a need to test for effects of a built-in challenge within a program to see if that helps motivate participants to participate longer and/or produces more successful outcomes," Fahs said in a university news release.
Since research such as this is often done in urban or suburban settings, "work needs to be done to see how best to keep rural women engaged in meaningful exercise for longer periods of time," Fahs added.
The study was published recently in Creative Nursing.
-- Randy Dotinga
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SOURCE: Binghamton University, State University of New York, news release