Being physically active is the best way to reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women, according to a cohort study. The research suggested that even lighter intensity or moderate physical activity can be beneficial for older women.

The study that was published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open last month looked into the association between physical activity and fracture risk among postmenopausal women. The research team observed a total of 77,207 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years for 14 years.

During the observation period, the researchers found that vigorous, moderate or even mild exercise reduced the risk of hip, wrist and forearm fractures to a great extent. The study team also found that less sedentary time and lighter intensity activities, like walking, were associated with reduced fracture risk in postmenopausal women. But the link between exercise and fracture risk varied depending on the intensity and fracture site.

Fracture is a major health problem faced by many elderly women worldwide. Nearly nine million fractures occur annually around the globe with one in every three women experiencing it, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Some of the factors associated with fractures are propensity to fall, low bone mineral density, declines in physical functioning, mobility, balance and muscle strength, the research team noted.

The participants who were involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity for around 35 minutes or more in a day had an 18% reduced risk of hip fracture and 6% lesser risk of total fracture.  The study team also noted that walking reduced the risk of hip fracture by 12% and mild activities lowered the risk of spinal bone or clinical break in vertebra by 13%.

“Fracture is very common in postmenopausal women, and is associated with loss of independence, physical limitations and increased mortality. These findings provide evidence that fracture reduction is among the many positive attributes of regular physical activity in older women,” study’s co-author Jean Wactawski-Wende, from the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a statement.

The research team also noted that it is not really necessary to focus on recreational physical activities. Even non-recreational physical activities and household chores, like floor cleaning and laundry folding, can reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women.

Lead researcher Michael LaMonte, a research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at UB, said the study aims at spreading the message “sit less, move more, and every movement counts”.

“Modest activities, including walking, can significantly reduce the risk of fracture, which can, in turn, lower the risk of death,” Wactawski-Wende added.