Study: Women with Heart Disease Ignoring Exercise Guidelines

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 2, 2021
Women with Heart Disease Not Working Out

More than 42 million American women live with some form of cardiovascular disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it's the leading cause of death among American women, according to the American Heart Association. But many aren’t getting the exercise they need to help prevent complications like heart attack and stroke. In fact, the number of women who aren’t physically active is quite high and growing, according to a study in JAMA Open Network.

More than 50 percent of women in a major study weren’t exercising enough, despite the fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death among American women. And the number of women who get little to no exercise is growing, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine found. The researchers analyzed self-reported data from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, conducted between 2006 and 2015 and included 18,000 women with heart disease, ages 18 and 75. 

“Can’t say I’m surprised with Hopkins’ findings,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Women lead busy lives. Many have careers, take care of their home, raise their children and care for elderly relatives. Sometimes there’s just not enough hours in the day for women to exercise, so it falls off their to-do list.”

Investing in Exercise to Prevent Heart Disease Complications

Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to a higher risk for a heart attack and other risk factors such as coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

It’s also a financial burden. Survey results suggested the average healthcare costs for a woman with heart disease who doesn't exercise increased from $12,724 between 2006 and 2007 to $14,820 between 2014 and 2015.

How Much Should Women Work Out to Prevent Heart Disease Complications?

How much should you work out? American Heart Association’s (AHA) exercise recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity (e.g., walking, cycling, swimming) and two days per week of moderate-to-high intensity strength training.

“One of the reasons so many MDVIP-affiliated physicians offer walking programs is to help their patients meet their aerobic exercise goal in a fun, safe and social manner,” Kaminetsky says. “Additionally, studies suggest walking is effective for strengthening your heart and may help prevent heart failure in women.” 

Regardless of whether you have heart disease, discuss the AHA exercise recommendations with your primary care doctor. And always check with your doctor before beginning or changing a workout routine.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you and develop a wellness plan that can help you prevent cardiovascular disease. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 


This content was last reviewed February 2021.


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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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