How Small Changes in Daily Activity Can Counteract the Effects of Sitting

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Researchers say sitting for long periods of time is bad for heart health. DZ FILM/Stocksy
  • Researchers report that any activity is better for heart health than sitting, including sleeping.
  • Experts say daily activity can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels and muscle strength.
  • Even a five-minute break during the workday can be beneficial, they say.

The great baseball player Satchel Paige famously said, “Don’t look back. Something might get to you.”

In other words: keep going.

That’s the subject of a new study, which suggests that any activity — even sleep — is better for your heart than sitting.

Supported by the British Heart Foundation and published today in European Heart JournalThe study’s authors say their study is the first to assess the relationship between different exercise patterns and heart health throughout 24 hours a day.

Researchers say this is the first evidence from the international Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting and Sleep (ProPASS) consortium.

Cardiovascular diseases Researchers noted that all heart and circulatory diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide. It was responsible for one in three deaths worldwide in 2021 (18 million people), with coronary heart disease being the biggest killer.

In their study, scientists from University College London analyzed data from six studies involving 15,246 people from five countries to understand the relationship between exercise throughout the day and heart health.

Each participant wore a device on their thigh that measured their activity 24 hours a day and measured their heart health.

Heart health was measured using six indicators: body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, HDL to total cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).

The study identified typical behaviors over a 24-hour day, with moderately vigorous activity being the most beneficial for heart health, followed by light activity, standing and sleeping. All were compared to the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior.

The team simulated what would happen if a person changed one behavior to varying degrees every day for a week to estimate the impact of each condition on heart health. They report that as little as 5 minutes of moderate-intensity activity can have a significant impact on heart health when replacing sedentary behavior.

For a 54-year-old woman with an average body mass index of 26.5, the 30-minute change translated into a 0.64 decrease in BMI, a difference of 2.4 percent, the researchers said.

Replacing 30 minutes of sitting or lying time per day with moderate or vigorous exercise can also reduce waist circumference by 2.5 cm (2.7%) or glycated hemoglobin by 1.33 mmol/mol (3.6%).

“The big takeaway from our study is that while small changes in exercise patterns can have a positive impact on heart health, it’s the intensity that matters,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Jo Blodgett, a researcher at the Center for Surgery and Interventional Sciences at University College London. . and the Institute for Sport, Exercise and Health said in a statement.

Blodgett added that the most beneficial change the team observed was replacing prolonged sitting with moderate to vigorous activity, which could be running, brisk walking or climbing stairs.

“Basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two,” she says.

Although the authors stated that the findings cannot infer a causal relationship between exercise behavior and cardiovascular outcomes, the study does provide growing evidence that moderate to vigorous physical activity over a 24-hour period is associated with improvements in body fat measures related.

They also say more long-term studies are essential to better understand the link between exercise and cardiovascular outcomes.

Researchers say that while taking time for vigorous activity is the fastest way to improve heart health, people of all abilities can benefit. It’s just that the lower the intensity of the activity, the longer it takes to start seeing real benefits.

Using a standing desk instead of a sitting desk for a few hours a day, for example, is a relatively long-term change but can also be incorporated into a workflow fairly easily, they say.

The study also found that the least active subjects experienced the greatest benefits from becoming more active.

“A key innovation of the ProPASS consortium is the use of wearable devices that can better differentiate between types of physical activity and posture, allowing us to more accurately estimate the health effects of subtle changes,” said co-senior author Emmanuel Stamatakis The study leader, PhD, a professor at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center and School of Medicine and Health, said in a statement.

Dr. Chen Cheng-Han, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in California, tells us Medical News Today There are many simple ways to add more steps to your day.

“Take planned breaks throughout the day and take a five-minute walk around the house or around the office; take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from stores and walk, and walk more briskly when shopping,” he advises.

Chen said using stairs has several positive effects.

“Walking up stairs is more difficult than walking on level ground. That’s because not only are you moving your body, you’re moving your body against gravity, you’re actually pushing yourself up and out,” he says . “You can also engage the muscles in your lower body and strengthen your core and lower back.”

“Climbing stairs is harder, you need to do more exercise, and more exercise is better for you and your heart. We think that climbing stairs actually gives you as much exercise as the same amount of time walking on the ground. three times,” Chen noted.

Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, a cardiologist and lipidologist at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in California, tells us Medical News Today More activity leads to better blood pressure control. Over time, this in turn reduces stress on the heart and may prevent heart failure or heart attack.

“Muscles are also important consumers of blood sugar, and physical activity can increase blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes,” Ni said. “Since diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, any efforts to prevent diabetes will ultimately reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Ni noted that research shows that even small improvements in physical activity can affect blood sugar and blood pressure.

“Keep in mind that small changes made over the years can have lasting effects on health,” Ni says. “Walking for five minutes every hour in an office job may not seem like much, but during the workday this can add up. In an eight-hour day, this equates to 40 minutes of physical activity. Add in a walk during your lunch break For 15 minutes, you’ll suddenly have nearly an hour of extra physical activity every workday.”

Dr. J. Wes Ulm, a medical researcher and bioinformatics expert and analyst at the National Institutes of Health, tells us Medical News Today The study “doesn’t seem to suggest much groundbreaking at first glance,” but its implications are significant. Especially for Americans.

“Unfortunately, the United States has borne the brunt of a slow-burn health crisis, particularly over the past decade, with the steady decline in life expectancy significantly accelerating during the COVID-19 pandemic but unlike most other parts of the world. Countries are different – ​​failing to correct themselves,” he said.

The U.S. now has one of the lowest life expectancies in the developed world, Ulm said, and results are also worse on a variety of other core public health indicators.

He added that more exercise would help, especially for people with chronic conditions.

“In turn, physical inactivity, obesity, and poor diet significantly contribute to the prevalence and severity of such chronic diseases, and the research reported here specifically addresses the first (and by implication, the second) question,” Uhl Mu said.

Dr. Bradley Serwer is a cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution, which provides cardiovascular and anesthesiology services to hospitals nationwide.

server tells Medical News Today The study’s findings reaffirm why we’re seeing so much technology tracking movement.

“We’ve seen many updates and advancements over the years. Smartwatches that track exercise, steps, stairs, heart rate, heart rate variability, and more have always been a valuable tool. Not only do they track your stats, they also Send reminders when you’re sitting still for long periods of time,” he said.

Standing desks have become popular to promote constant movement, Serwer added.

“Exercising throughout the day can help reduce burnout, improve mood and help with mental clarity,” he says. “My tips for long-term success include finding a physical activity you enjoy and doing it consistently. Find a workout partner to help motivate you. Record your workouts on a smart watch or an old-fashioned written journal. These tips will help motivate and Encourage you to continue making permanent lifestyle changes.”

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