SLEEPING, a brisk walk and cleaning are better for your heart than sitting, a study shows.
Any activity that raises your heart rate “even for a minute or two” lowered the risk of heart attack or stroke, researchers found.
These included walking up stairs, a short run or just standing up, when compared to being sedentary.
Swapping time sat down for moderate exercise helped lower cholesterol, kept people at a healthy weight and gave them smaller waists, researchers said.
Dr Jo Blodgett, of University College London, said: “While small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters.
“The most beneficial change we observed was replacing sitting with moderate to vigorous activity – which could be a run, a brisk walk, or stair climbing – basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”
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Moderate activity included brisk walking, heavy cleaning like washing windows or mopping, cycling or badminton.
Hiking, jogging, shovelling, fast cycling, a football game, basketball or tennis counted as “vigorous” activity, researchers said.
Millions live with heart disease
Around 7.6million Brits live with a heart or circulatory disease, according to the British Heart Foundation.
They cause a quarter of all deaths in the country, increasing the risks of heart attack and stroke.
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The NHS recommends Brits do some type of physical activity every day, with adults aiming to do strength training at least twice a week.
They should try and do two-and-a-half hours of moderate intensity activity — like brisk walking — a week, according to the guidelines.
The health service also recommends adults get seven to nine hours sleep, while children need nine to 13.
The latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, looked at how activity levels and sleep impacted heart risk compared to sleeping.
Getting active isn’t always easy, and it’s important to make changes that you can stick to in the long-term and that you enjoy – anything that gets your heart rate up can help
Researchers looked at data from six studies, with 15,253 people tracked in total.
The participants wore a device on their thigh that monitored their sleep and time spent sedentary, standing or in light or moderate physical activity through the day.
Moderate to vigorous activity was found to be most beneficial, but even light exercise, sleeping or standing were found to be healthier than sitting down.
Researchers said people who sleep less than six hours a day may benefit more from sleeping than exercising.
Cholesterol levels improved when as few as six minutes of sedentary behaviour were replaced with exercise, although more exercise was better.
Blood sugar levels were also lower if people spent more time exercising, standing or sleeping rather than being sedentary.
Professor Mark Hamer of UCL said: “Though it may come as no surprise that becoming more active is beneficial for heart health, what’s new in this study is considering a range of behaviours across the whole 24-hour day.
“This approach will allow us to ultimately provide personalised recommendations to get people more active in ways that are appropriate for them.”
James Leiper, of the British Heart Foundation, which supported the study, said making small changes to be more active can only improve your heart health.
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He said: “Getting active isn’t always easy, and it’s important to make changes that you can stick to in the long-term and that you enjoy – anything that gets your heart rate up can help.
“Incorporating ‘activity snacks’ such as walking while taking phone calls, or setting an alarm to get up and do some star jumps every hour is a great way to start building activity into your day, to get you in the habit of living a healthy, active lifestyle.”
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