Everyone understands cycling is good for you, but a study by UCL and Sydney University has found really small changes to our activity levels – like replacing sedentary behaviour with a just few minutes of riding each day – boosts heart health.
The findings are important because over 20 million people across the globe die each year from cardiovascular disease.
The research saw 15,000 people wear devices 24 hours a day to measure their daily activity and heart health.
As you might expect, moderate-to-vigorous activity provided the greatest benefit to heart health, followed by light activity and standing. By contrast, sedentary behaviour had an adverse impact.
Dr Jo Blodgett, one of the authors 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.”
Although vigorous activity was found to be the quickest way to improve heart health, lower intensity activities worked too; they just needed to be done for longer.
James Leiper from the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, 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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