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Objective: Menopause is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Habitual physical activity, defined as any form of body movement with energy expenditure above resting levels, may improve health parameters. We assessed the level of habitual physical activity and its effect on anthropometric measures and cardiovascular risk factors in a cohort of premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women.

Methods: This cross-sectional study is nested on a longitudinal population-based study that was begun in 1995 in the city of Passo Fundo, Brazil. For the present analysis, 292 women were included. Anthropometric and metabolic profile was evaluated. Habitual physical activity was assessed by a digital pedometer for 7 days, and participants were stratified into active and inactive (>=6,000 and <6,000 steps/day, respectively).

Results: The mean (SD) age was 57.1 (5.4) years. The average number of steps per day for the total sample was 5,250.7 (3,372.9): 3,472.4 (1,570.2) in the inactive group (61.8%) and 9,055.9 (3,033.4) in the active group (31.9%). A negative and statistically significant correlation was found between physical activity and smoking (P = -0.019), body mass index (P = -0.006), waist circumference (P = -0.013), and waist-to-hip ratio of 0.85 or higher (P = -0.043). Inactive women presented a higher risk of overweight/obesity (odds ratio [OR], 2.1; 95% CI, 1.233-3.622; P = 0.006) and waist circumference larger than 88 cm (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.054-2.942; P = 0.03), even after adjustment for age, menopause status, smoking, and hormone therapy. Inactive women also had a higher risk of diabetes mellitus (OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.233-6.295; P = 0.014) and metabolic syndrome (OR, 2.5, 95% CI, 1.443-4.294; P = 0.001).

Conclusions: Habitual physical activity, specifically walking 6,000 or more steps daily, was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in middle-aged women, independently of menopause status.

(C) 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.