Any activity is better for your heart than sitting – even sleeping

kim kardashian

It’s good news for afternoon nappers but bad news for couch potatoes – even sleeping is better for you than sitting down, new research suggests.

A study found any activity, from jogging to snoozing, can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke when compared with sitting for long periods.

Decent sleep was found to have beneficial effects on BMI and waist measurements, with experts suggesting this could be due to less time for unhealthy traits, such as snacking.

Exercise remains the best way to protect heart health, they said, and swapping time spent sitting down can lead to lower cholesterol levels, a healthier weight and smaller waistlines.

The new study by University College London and the University of Sydney involved 15,253 people in five countries who wore gadgets to measure their activity levels for 24 hours a day.

Blood sugar levels were also lower if people spent more time exercising, standing, or sleeping than being sedentary

Blood sugar levels were also lower if people spent more time exercising, standing, or sleeping than being sedentary

Switching as little as four to 12 minutes per day from sedentary behaviour into moderate or vigorous physical activity saw benefits in all areas.

The study found replacing 30 minutes of sitting per day with 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise had the biggest effect on people having a lower body weight.

Cholesterol levels also improved when as few as six minutes of sedentary behaviour were replaced with exercise, though more exercise was better, their modelling found.

Blood sugar levels were also lower if people spent more time exercising, standing, or sleeping than being sedentary, according to the findings published in the European Heart Journal.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS 

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The results suggested a hierarchy in what was good for health, with vigorous exercise, such as jogging, fast cycling, football or tennis, the most beneficial.

This was followed by light exercise, such as brisk walking or cleaning, then sleeping or standing.

Calculations in the study suggested that, for a 54-year-old woman with an average body mass index (BMI) of 26.5, replacing 30 minutes of daily sitting or lying time with moderate or vigorous exercise could also translate into a 2.5 cm (2.7 per cent) decrease in waist circumference and a lower BMI.

Dr Jo Blodgett, of UCL, said: ‘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.

‘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.’

Associations between sleep and cardiometabolic health were more complex, she added, with clear benefits of sleep replacing sitting for adioposity markers like BMI and waist circumference but little effect on blood-based markers such as cholesterol, trigylcerides or blood glucose levels.

‘When considering sitting versus sleeping, the negative impact of sitting on these obesity measures is likely due to related unhealthy behaviours (e.g. snacking) rather than the physiological benefits of sleep itself,’ she said.

The researchers pointed out that although time spent doing vigorous activity was the quickest way to improve heart health, small changes could also have an impact if done for longer.

Examples included swapping a sitting desk for a standing desk for a few hours a day and walking while on phone calls.

James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation which funded the research, said: ‘This study shows that replacing even a few minutes of sitting with a few minutes of moderate activity can improve your BMI, cholesterol, waist size, and have many more physical benefits.

‘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.’

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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