But they said greater effort were needed to promote exercise,
which they describe as a "Cinderella" risk factor compared with
"We need a lot more effort to keep middle-aged women active
and then keep them active into old age," Prof Wendy Brown, of the
university's centre for research on exercise, physical activity and
health, told BBC News.
"If you can do at least 30 minutes and preferably 45 minutes a
day, you'll see huge improvements in your health and reduce your risk
of heart disease by half."
According to NHS Choices, adults aged 19-64 years are
recommended to do 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, or 30 minutes
on five days a week.
Commenting on the study, Thembi Nkala, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said physical inactivity was a known major risk factor for heart disease.
"Interestingly, this study shows its dominant influence on
heart disease amongst women, and suggests a greater need to promote
regular physical activity amongst this group," she said.
"It's important to remember that heart disease is linked to
other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high
"It's essential to manage these too, as the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of heart disease. "