Any activity is better for the heart than sitting. As a study conducted by British and Australian scientists showed, replacing a few minutes of sitting with intense movement is enough to improve the efficiency of the circulatory system. Gentle exercise or even standing also brings benefits.
Cardiovascular diseases, with coronary heart disease at the forefront, are one of the main causes of death around the world – in 2021 it was responsible for approximately one in three deaths. The number of people living with these conditions has doubled since 1997 and is expected to continue to rise. The authors of the study published in the “European Heart Journal” decided to look at this problem and check what behaviors have the worst impact on our heart.
Better to sleep or stand
Scientists from the University College London (UCL) and the University of Sydney analyzed data from six studies involving over 15,000 people to check how exercise during the day affected the condition of their circulatory system. All study participants wore devices recording their daily activity, and their health was constantly monitored by experts. On this basis, the authors developed a ranking of behaviors from the most to the least heart-friendly.
The results showed that moderate and intense exercise brings the most health benefits. Light exercise came second, followed by standing and sleeping, and sitting had a harmful effect. For example, in one 54-year-old woman with a BMI of 26.5, replacing 30 minutes of daily sitting or lying down with moderate to vigorous exercise resulted in a 0.64 reduction in BMI and a 2.5 centimeter reduction in waist circumference.
– It is worth remembering that although small changes may have positive effects on the heart, the intensity of movement matters. The most beneficial was replacing sitting with moderate or vigorous activity, explained Jo Blodgett from UCL, first author of the paper. “It’s the kind of activity that raises your heart rate and forces you to breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”
Developing healthy habits
The researchers pointed out that while vigorous exercise was the fastest way to improve heart health, more leisurely activity also played an important role. For example, switching from sitting at a desk to standing for a few hours a day will bring benefits over time, but can be easily integrated into your work routine. The least active people benefit most from changing their sedentary lifestyle to a more active one.
‘We know that regular physical activity can have real benefits for heart health, and this study shows that even small changes to everyday lifestyle can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke,’ added James Leiper from the British Heart Foundation, which supported the project.
Leiper added that staying active isn’t always easy, so it’s important to make enjoyable changes that can be maintained over the long term. For example, we can walk while talking on the phone or set an alarm to get up and do a few jumps every hour – these activities will help us develop healthy habits.
PAP, University College London
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