A healthier heart may just be a quick, consistent hop and a skip away, according to new research.
Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
Given that over 80% of the U.S. workforce is exposed to long periods of sitting, you might wonder how that lack of movement could affect your health in the long run. More and more research is surfacing on the downsides of prolonged sitting—whether it’s potential back problems like sciatica or increased potential for mental health issues like anxiety. Regardless, new studies continue to suggest that extra movement throughout the day can help you live a longer, happier and healthier life.
A new November 2023 study was published in the European Heart Journal by researchers from University College London (UCL) to see just how that increased movement may specifically have benefits for overall health and healthy weight management.
What This Study on Movement Found
The researchers at UCL collected information on over 15,000 people from six different international studies. For each set of data, participants wore heart-monitoring devices to measure their 24-hour daily activity. These activities included sedentary behavior like sitting or laying down outside of the sleep schedule, as well as sleep time itself and movement like standing, walking and exercise.
Using this data on daily activity, researchers found that as little as five minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity a day may have a positive effect on health in the long term. For example, they predicted that the average 54-year old participant with a BMI of 26.5 could achieve a 2.4-centimeter decrease in waist size and 3.6% decrease in A1c levels by replacing 30 minutes of daily sitting with moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
But what constitutes moderate and vigorous exercise? Dr. Jo Blodgett, author of the study from UCL Surgery & Interventional Science, explained that that exercise “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."
It’s worth noting that this study didn’t observe cardiovascular health changes over time, so more research is needed to make any definitive conclusions about increased movement’s effects on long-term heart health. However, this data still adds to the increasing evidence that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity yields positive effects on cardiovascular and overall health.
The Bottom Line
The results of this study suggested that small increases in movement may have significant, positive impacts on heart health and heart-related health markers.
Though more research is needed to make concrete conclusions on the link between cardiovascular health and changes in active level, this data adds to growing evidence that any movement (even standing at your work desk) is better than sitting when feasible.
Whether you’re more apt to taking on 30-second exercise “snacks” or intensifying your current regimen to help better your health, try making small changes and you may just find yourself reaping huge rewards over time.
Read the original article on Eating Well.