FRIDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- American women are less likely than men to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, a new study shows.

Current recommendations call for adults to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity most days of the week to ward off multiple health problems, including an obesity-related condition called metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of risk factors -- including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and extra belly weight -- that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The Oregon State University study of more than 1,000 women and men found that women averaged only about 18 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily, while men averaged 30 minutes. Participants wore an accelerometer, a device that measured how much daily activity they were getting.

People who got at least 30 minutes of exercise a day were less likely to be depressed, less likely to have high cholesterol and less likely to have metabolic syndrome, the researchers said.

The study was published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

"It's pretty striking what happens to you if you don't meet that 30 minutes a day of activity," Bradley Cardinal, a professor of social psychology and physical activity, said in a university news release. "Women in our sample had better health behavior -- they were much less likely to smoke for instance -- but the lack of activity still puts them at risk."

He noted that depression increases the risk of abdominal fat and insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

"Physical activity has been shown to reduce depression," Cardinal said. "So the key message here is to get that 30 minutes of exercise every day because it reduces a great deal of risk factors."

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services Office on Women's Health has more about exercise.