Replacing Sitting With Moderate Activity (or Even Sleeping) Can Shave Off Pounds and Waistline Inches

December 14, 2023 by No Comments

While most of us know that moving is good for you, it’s not clear at what intensity to move in order to lose weight or improve heart health.

The European Heart Journal published a new study on November 10, which sought to understand better the relationship between different levels of vigorous exercise and key cardiovascular risk factors. This was the first-ever study to look at how movement throughout the day could impact heart health.

In a release, the first author, Jo Blodgett, Ph., who is a research associate at University College London’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, said that intensity of movement was important.

Dr. Blodgett says that replacing sitting with moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA), which increases your heart rate and makes you breathe harder for even a few minutes, is the most beneficial.

The findings that small increases in physical exercise can have health benefits and that moderate to vigorous activity has the greatest gift are logical and in line with recent U.S. guidelines. Michael McConnell, MD, clinical professor and cardiologist at Stanford Medicine, California, was not involved with the study. He says that the guidelines for physical activity and the accompanying scientific statement are sound.

Adults need 150-300 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking or dancing fast. Adults need to do muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights and doing push-ups at least twice a week.

Researchers found that restful sleep was more beneficial than couch time for reducing weight and inches around the waist.

The Best Activity is Vigorous and Moderate, while Sitting is the worst.

Researchers used data collected from six studies, with over 15,000 participants from five countries, to determine the relationship between movement throughout the day, measured by an activity monitor worn on the thigh, and heart health. This was determined by BMI, waist size, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels.

Standing, sleeping, and light exercise are the activities that have the greatest impact on heart health. Sitting has the opposite effect.

Even 5 minutes of extra activity per day can lead to improvements

Researchers created models in the second part to estimate heart health effects when replacing sitting time with activities. They found that even five minutes more of moderate or vigorous exercise has a significant impact on heart health.

What would happen if you tried it on a person? A 54-year-old woman with a BMI of 26.5% (calculated as the weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared or kg/m2) would have a change in 30 minutes (trading in sitting for moderate to vigorous activity).

  • A 2.4 percent drop in BMI
  • A 2.5 centimeters (2.7%) decrease in waist circumference
  • A blood sugar decrease of 1.33 mmol/mol (3.6%) is achieved.

Blodgett says moderate exercise includes any activity that increases your heart rate or makes you breathe more quickly. Examples include brisk walking and cycling. The heart rate zone is 65 to 75% of your maximum heartbeat.

According to the American Health Association, the maximum heart rate is 220, which is less than your age. A 54-year-old woman’s heart rate would be 166. This would put her in the moderate zone, between 108 to 125 beats per minute.

Vigorous activities can include sports, running,g or short bursts like climbing stairs or lifting heavy boxes. Blodgett says that moderate activities can be turned into vigorous ones if they are increased to above 75% of their maximum heart rate.

She says that an activity can be classified as moderate intensity when you are able to talk but not sing while performing it. An activity can also be classified as vigorous-intensity when you cannot say more than a few words before stopping to breathe.

The benefits of small changes

Blodgett explains that even small amounts of high-intensity exercise can improve heart health.

Dr. McConnell concurs, saying, “Eve,n small increases in activity have been shown to be beneficial for health.”

He points out that the guidelines previously stated that an exercise session had to last a minimum of 10 minutes in order to count towards the weekly goal. He says that after more research, this requirement has been removed. “Now, every minute counts,” he says.

She says that more exercise is better and, when possible, high-intensity activities are always the best.

Exercise and activity have many positive effects on heart health. Regular practice makes the heart stronger and more efficient. The heart pumps blood more efficiently, improving blood flow throughout the entire body. Blodgett says that this can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and the resting heartbeat.

Sleeping is better than sitting for health improvements

According to findings, swapping 30 minutes of sitting each day for 30 minutes of sleeping reduced BMI by almost .5 kg/m2 and increased waist circumference by about 2/3 inch (1.75 cm).

McConnell says that the finding that sleeping time is better than sitting time was not only interesting but also consistent with McConnell’s recommendations.

Further research is needed to confirm that the activity responsible for the improvements is actually active.

The findings of this study are in line with current evidence about heart health and movement, according to Melody Ding, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor and researcher at the Sydney School of Public Health, Australia, who wasn’t involved in the studies.

A study published in October 2022 by the European Heart Journal found that 15 minutes of vigorous activity per week consisting of two-minute bursts was associated with an 18 percent reduced risk of death as well as a 15 percent decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Even more vigorous activity is linked to better outcomes. Bursts of 53 minutes per week are associated with a 36% lower risk of death.

Know Your Numbers and Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

According to the AHA, many heart diseases are caused by factors that have no obvious symptoms.

People need to understand their cardiometabolic condition by having regular checkups with their doctors. Blodgett says that knowing if your BMI or waist circumference is within a healthy range, along with cholesterol and blood sugar, can help you determine if cardiovascular disease is a higher risk.

Your doctor can give you advice on lifestyle changes to reduce the risk. Increase physical activity by reducing the time you spend sitting, says Dr. Sherry.

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