Beat the heat for your heart
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The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many of us are working from home and, as a result we are all sitting down a lot more than usual. Excessive sitting time has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
However, the good news is that new guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have found that daily physical activity of between 30 and 40 minutes can help counteract the damage sitting too long can do to your health.
This advice is contained in the first ever global guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour (sitting down) which were launched today (Thursday 26 November) by the WHO.
This is the first time that a recommendation of this kind has been made and It reflects a large and growing body of research linking extensive sitting time to serious ill health and an increased risk of early death.
Research carried out by the Irish Heart Foundation earlier this year revealed that more than half of people working from home in Ireland as a result of COVID-19 restrictions were sitting down for an average of two hours and 40 minutes longer per day. The Irish Heart Foundation has long highlighted the negative impact sitting down for too long can have on your health through its annual Heart Month campaigns.
The Irish Heart Foundation has long highlighted the negative impact sitting down for too long can have on your health.
New data also released today revealed that adults who clock up long hours of sitting time every day can counter these risks by increasing the amount of physical activity they do.
The new research, involving more than 44,000 people wearing activity trackers from four countries, revealed that a high daily tally of sedentary time (defined in this study as 10 or more hours) is linked to a significantly heightened risk of death, particularly among people who are physically inactive.
But 30 to 40 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity substantially weakens this risk, bringing it down to levels associated with very low amounts of sedentary time, indicate the findings, which broadly confirm the recommendations set out in the 2020 World Health Organization Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour.
According to the WHO guidelines, there’s not enough evidence to recommend specific maximum thresholds for sedentary behaviour. But everyone, irrespective of their age or abilities, should try to limit their daily sedentary time and replace it with physical activity of any intensity.
All physical activity counts. This could be anything from climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift, a walk around the block, a spot of gardening, or some household chores, to going for a run or bike ride, a high intensity interval training work-out, or team sport.
It all adds up to the weekly tally of 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity, or at least 75-100 minutes of vigorous intensity, physical activity, the WHO guidance recommends. But any amount of physical activity is better for health than none, it stated.
And those unable to meet these recommendations should start small and gradually build up the frequency, intensity, and duration of their physical activity over time, it said.
" If you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.”
Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, of the University of Sydney said, “these guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behaviour.
“But people can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity. As these guidelines emphasise, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none.
“There are plenty of indoor options that don’t need a lot of space or equipment, such as climbing the stairs, active play with children or pets, dancing, or online yoga or Pilates classes.”
“Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and wellbeing, but more is always better,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion, WHO, “and if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.”
Commenting Tara Curran, Physical Activity Coordinator with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “I am delighted to see the launch of the 2020 WHO Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour. For the first time, physical activity guidelines mention sedentary behaviour as a risk factor for our health, an issue that the Irish Heart Foundation have been raising over recent years in our ‘Escape Your Chair’ campaign.
The new guidelines recommend that those who sit for long periods of time should aim to exceed 60 minutes of physical activity per day. This can be difficult to achieve, especially now as many of us work from home. The important thing to note is that all physical activity counts so try to incorporate move movement throughout the day, a short walk before work, a 20-minute online class at lunch, swopping driving for walking or cycling all add up and will help you achieve the guidelines.”
" For the first time, physical activity guidelines mention sedentary behaviour as a risk factor for our health, an issue that the Irish Heart Foundation have been raising over recent years in our ‘Escape Your Chair’ campaign,"
The new guidelines involved more than 40 scientists from six continents. They provide a consensus on the latest science on the health impacts of physical activity and sedentary behaviour from early childhood through to older age, and update WHO global recommendations for physical health, published in 2010.
Key recommendations contained in the guidelines for adults, including those living with long term conditions or disabilities at any age are:
Light intensity physical activity doesn’t cause a substantial increase in heart rate or breathing and includes activities such as strolling.
Moderate intensity physical activity increases heart rate and induces a degree of breathlessness where it’s still possible to talk. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, or raking up leaves.
Vigorous intensity physical activity substantially increases heart rate and breathing rate. Examples include cycling, running/jogging, swimming, carrying heavy objects, walking up the stairs, digging the garden, playing tennis.
For more ideas on ways to keep active check out www.escapeyourchair.ie
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