Benefits of regular light exercise for heart patients

By June Shannon Heart News   |   26th Oct 2018

Regular physical activity is key to achieving a healthy life, whether you are a heart patient or not

A new study has suggested that heart patients should move around every 20 minutes in a bid to lead a longer life. The study was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC) 2018 which took place earlier this week in Toronto, Canada.

According to the researchers, heart patients spend most of their waking hours sitting, lying down, and watching television. Previous research has shown that being sedentary for long periods could shorten life but taking breaks to move around may counteract the risk, particularly if it means burning more than 770 kcal a day. This study investigated how many breaks, and for what duration, are needed to expend 770 kcal.

“Our study shows that heart patients should interrupt sedentary time every 20 minutes with a 7-minute bout of light physical activity,” said study author Dr Ailar Ramadi, postdoctoral fellow, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

“Simple activities such as standing up and walking at a casual pace will expend more than 770 kcal in a day if done with this frequency and duration.”

This small study enrolled 132 patients with coronary artery disease. The average age was 63 years and 77 per cent were male. Participants wore an armband activity monitor for an average of 22 hours a day for five days. The activity monitor recorded the amount of energy spent during breaks from inactivity, the amount of inactive time, and the number and duration of breaks during each sedentary hour.

Dr Ramadi said: “There is a lot of evidence now that sitting for long periods is bad for health. Our study suggests that during each hour of sitting time, heart patients should take three breaks which add up to 21 minutes of light physical activity. This will expend 770 kcal a day, an amount associated with a lower risk of premature death.”

“It is well known many of us lead sedentary lifestyles and that moderate exercise is good for the mind and body,"

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation

Regarding limitations of the research, Professor Joep Perk, European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Prevention Spokesperson, noted that this was a small, observational study with no control group. “A randomised controlled trial is needed before this can become a firm recommendation,” he said.

Professor Jeroen Bax, Past President of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and course director of the ESC programme at CCC 2018, said: “Sedentary lifestyles affect more than half of the world’s population. ESC guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Any activity is better than none and more activity is better than some.”

Commenting Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director, Irish Heart Foundation said, “It is well known many of us lead sedentary lifestyles and that moderate exercise is good for the mind and body. This is a small non-randomised observational study with no control group, but it suggests that heart patients are also very sedentary, and that light exercise every 20 minutes would help burn up to 770 k calories. We clearly need a randomised controlled trial before this can become a firm recommendation that goes into our guidelines. However, regular physical activity is key to achieving a healthy life, whether you are a cardiac patient or not.”

Irish Heart Foundation Helpline Nurse, Bernadette Bergin suggested heart patients could made a point of getting up every 20 minutes, and even having a short walk about from one room to another.

“This would be a great start. I would always suggest for example, when watching TV, to get up and walk about when the ads breaks come on. Or if you’re on a phone call, get up and walk about. Little efforts go a long way to achievement,” Bernadette added.

One in three women and one in four men worldwide do not get enough exercise. So whatever our age or medical history, if possible, we all need to do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 5 days a week, to help prevent heart disease and stroke.



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cardiovascular disease heart heart disease heart patients research

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