The European Heart Journal has published a study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). This is the first research to evaluate the connection between various movement patterns over the course of 24 hours and heart health. Additionally, it is the initial evidence to be revealed by the international group, ProPASS (Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting and Sleep).
Globally, cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death, with 20.5 million fatalities linked to it in 2021. Coronary heart disease is particularly deadly, the highest single cause of mortality. Since 1997, the amount of people living with cardiovascular disease has grown twofold and is expected to continue increasing.
In the course of this research, UCL scholars looked at the info from six experiments of 15,246 individuals from five countries. They wanted to find out how much people move throughout the day is linked to heart health, which was calculated using six regular indicators*. Each participant donned a wearable device on their thigh to record their activity throughout the 24-hour period and had their cardiovascular well-being appraised.
A hierarchy of behaviours was determined by the researchers to constitute a standard 24-hour day, with time devoted to moderate-vigorous activity providing the most advantages for cardiovascular well-being, followed by light exercise, standing, and sleeping. In contrast, sedentary behaviour had a deleterious effect.
In order to determine the impact of varying behaviours on heart health, the team developed a model simulating a single person’s activity over the course of a week. Surprisingly, even a mere five minutes of moderate-vigorous activity substituted for sedentary behaviour yielded a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
For instance, a 54-year-old woman with an average BMI of 26.5 was able to experience a 0.64 drop in BMI after a 30-minute alteration, which translates to 2.4%. Furthermore, changing 30 minutes of sitting or lying down with moderate or strenuous exercise could lead to a 2.5 cm (2.7%) reduction in waist circumference or a 1.33 mmol/mol (3.6%) fall in glycated haemoglobin.
According to Dr Jo Blodgett, the principal investigator of the study from UCL Surgery & Interventional Science and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, the key point from their research is that small changes in movement can have a beneficial effect on heart health, but the intensity of activity is also important. The most advantageous change observed was substituting sitting with moderate to vigorous activity – such as running, walking quickly, or climbing stairs – any activity that can raise your pulse and make you breathe faster, even if it is just for a few minutes.
The researchers noted that although vigorous exercise is the quickest way to improve cardiovascular health, there are approaches to benefit people of all capabilities – the lower the intensity of the action, the more extended the time needed to begin getting a real advantage. Taking a stab at a standing desk for a couple of hours daily instead of a sitting desk, for example, is a change over a significant amount of time but one that could be incorporated into a working routine relatively easily since it doesn’t need any time commitment.
The people who had the lowest levels of activity saw the most improvement when they shifted from being inactive to engaging in more physical activity.
Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor from the Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, noted that the ProPASS consortium makes a unique contribution in its use of wearables to distinguish between physical activity and posture, thereby enabling researchers to analyze even subtle differences with greater accuracy.
It is not possible to draw any causal connections between movement behaviours and cardiovascular outcomes, however, the data does add to the existing evidence that suggests moderate to intensive physical activity over the course of a day is related to improved body fat measurements. To gain a better understanding of the relationship between movement and cardiovascular outcomes, more studies with long-term follow-ups are needed.
Mark Hamer, the joint senior author of the research project from UCL Surgery and Interventional Science and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, commented: “It’s not a shocker that being more active is beneficial for the heart, but what this study has done is assess a variety of activities over a full 24-hour cycle. This technique will enable us to eventually provide tailored suggestions to get people engaged in the activities that fit them best.”
James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, commented that past research has demonstrated the advantages of exercise on cardiovascular health and the recent research is encouraging as it suggests that making slight modifications to the daily regimen may reduce the chances of suffering from a stroke or heart attack. He further noted that replacing a few minutes of sitting with a few minutes of moderate activity can cause positive physical changes such as BMI, cholesterol, and waist size.
Establishing a regular routine of physical activity can be a difficult task; however, it is essential to make it enjoyable and feasible in the long term. Anything that raises your heart rate can be beneficial. To start making changes in your lifestyle, why not try incorporating some ‘activity snacks’ into your day, like walking during phone calls or doing jumping jacks every hour when the alarm goes off? This is a great way to start becoming more active and healthy.
Financial support for this research was provided by the British Heart Foundation.
Research conducted as part of the ProPASS group focused on six elements of heart health: BMI, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, HDL-to-total cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and HbA1c.
Research Source:Materials provided by University College London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Journal Reference:Joanna M Blodgett et al. Device-measured physical activity and cardiometabolic health: the Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting, and Sleep (ProPASS) consortium. European Heart Journal, 2023 DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehad717