Does Your Heart Need More Exercise Or Less Sitting?


African American businessman standing at desk late nightEven if you exercise regularly, too much sitting can still be bad for your heart, a leading cardiologists’ group warns.

The American Heart Association (AHA) also says that too many people are spending far too much time on chairs and sofas, period.

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“Based on existing evidence, we found that U.S. adults are sedentary for about six to eight hours a day,” said Deborah Rohm Young, chair of the AHA panel that wrote the new advisory.

The problem only gets worse with age. “Adults 60 years and older spend between 8.5 to 9.6 hours a day in sedentary time,” Young said in an AHA news release. She directs behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

One heart specialist said the new stance is justified.

“Don’t be a ‘sitting duck for cardiovascular disease’ — move more, sit less,” said Dr. Barbara George, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Lifestyle Medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

“All studies are indicating that moving more throughout the day — in addition to getting the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity on a daily basis — is necessary to lower one’s risk of heart disease and other causes of mortality,” she said.

According to the AHA, the new statement reflects growing evidence that, on its own, exercise isn’t enough to counter sitting’s unhealthy effects.

“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” Young explained.

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And sitting impacts more than just heart disease risk, the AHA said. A sedentary lifestyle may also be associated with an increased risk of diabetes, impaired insulin sensitivity (linked to diabetes) and a higher risk of death from any cause, according to the new statement.

The exact mechanisms behind the effect aren’t yet clear.

“There are many important factors we don’t understand about sedentary time yet,” Young said. She stressed that, “the types of studies available identify trends but don’t prove cause and effect.”

“We don’t have information about how much sedentary behavior is bad for health — the best advice at this time is to ‘sit less and move more,'” she added.

How much more? According to the AHA, people should try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day to reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. That’s healthier than trying to cram their weekly exercise into one or two days, according to the statement.