It’s well-known that sitting for a long period comes with health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Now, a new study shows that replacing sitting with a few minutes of any activity can improve heart health.
The study, led by researchers from The University of Sydney, explored how different movement patterns throughout a day are linked to heart health. According to the university’s press statement, the first-of-its-kind study, published in the European Heart Journal, analysed data from 15,246 people across six countries to examine how movement behaviour affects the heart.
The findings showed that during a typical 24-hour day, time spent engaging in moderate to vigorous activity was most beneficial to heart health, followed by light activity, standing, and sleeping - compared to the adverse impact of sedentary behaviour. To put it simply, any activity that increases the heart rate and makes people breathe faster, even for a minute or two is good for health, the researchers said in the statement.
The researchers also observed that when people replaced sedentary behaviour, with five minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, there was a noticeable effect on heart health. “The big takeaway from our research is that while small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters,” first author Jo Blodgett said in the statement.
While the time spent engaging in vigorous activity was observed to be quickest to improve heart health, the findings also showed that the lower the intensity of the activity, the longer the time required to start seeing a tangible benefit, the statement explained. This can be incorporated in different ways. For instance, using a standing desk instead of a sitting desk is a change that can be fairly easily adopted into a work routine to avoid being sedentary for a long period.
Previous research has also shown that a sedentary lifestyle can have a significant negative impact on health. For instance, a study published in the journal JAMA in September showed that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a risk for dementia among older adults.
For many, exercise goals can seem daunting, which they don’t have to be. Several studies have indicated that smaller goals such as walking almost 4,000 steps a day every day, as shown by a study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, can keep health risks at bay.