Vigorous activity best option for heart health

An important UK study has reinforced that the best way to make friends with your heart is medium-to-vigorous exercise – exactly what a bike ride offers.

The study, by researchers at University College, London, looked at five movement behaviours: sitting (sedentary), sleeping; standing; light intensity exercise (walking); and medium-to-intense exercise (running, bike riding).

It analysed the association of these behaviours with cardiometabolic health indicators and the results were stark.

Sedentary behaviour such as sitting had clear, adverse associations with cardio metabolic health, regardless of duration. You are actually better off sleeping more than sitting around.

Standing had a positive association but required a substantial duration of time before benefit emerged.

Moderate to vigorous activity (MVA) for 30 minutes was clearly the most effective and efficient behaviour to get the heart healthy and avoid becoming overweight.

Bike riding is known to be the best way to get MVA because it is time you can use travelling to work, education, the railway station or any destination, not to mention simply riding for pleasure and relaxation.

The researchers were part of an international consortium that analysed data from six studies, encompassing 15,246 people from five countries, to see how movement behaviour across the day was associated with heart health, as measured by six common indicators.

Each participant used a wearable device on their thigh to measure their activity throughout the 24-hour day and had their heart health measured.

Dr Jo Blodgett, first author of the study 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.”

James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We already know that exercise can have real benefits for your cardiovascular health and this encouraging research shows that small adjustments to your daily routine could lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

"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."

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