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Sit less to improve heart health, researchers say


Photo: LightFieldStudios/iStockphoto

London — Improving your cardiovascular health can be as simple as replacing 30 minutes of sitting with another activity, results of a recent study out of England show.

Since 1997, the number of people living with cardiovascular disease has doubled globally, according to a University College London press release. In 2021, it was responsible for a third of all deaths.

Researchers at the university examined six studies involving more than 15,000 people from five countries to assess how various movement patterns throughout a 24-hour period are linked to heart health. Each participant wore an activity tracker and had their cardiovascular health measured.

Sitting and inactivity are major culprits of cardiovascular risks, the researchers found. They created a model showing what would happen if an individual changed various amounts of one behavior for another each day for a week, to estimate the effect on heart health for each scenario.

For example, a 54-year-old woman with an average body mass index of 26.5 who replaces 30 minutes of sitting or lying with moderate or vigorous exercise could experience a 2.4% decrease in BMI, a 2.7% decrease in waist circumference or a 3.6% drop in hemoglobin A1C – used to measure blood sugar level.

Although increasing the amount of vigorous activity can be the fastest way to improve heart health, the researchers say people of all abilities can benefit by lowering the intensity and lengthening the time of an activity.

“This encouraging research shows that small adjustments to your daily routine could lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke,” James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said in the release.

The study was published online in the European Heart Journal.

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