‘Daily life tasks’ shown to slash your risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 50%

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A long life is not guaranteed: obesity-related deaths provide stark evidence of this. It has long been understood that exercise is key to fending off obesity and its associated complications, such as heart disease and stroke. However, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests you can achieve many of these desired outcomes through simple movements too.

Simply performing routine activities, referred to as daily life movement, including housework, gardening, cooking and self-care activities such as showering can significantly benefit cardiovascular health, the study found.

Compared to women with less than two hours per day of daily life movement, those women with at least four hours of daily life movement had a 43 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, 43 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, 30 percent lower risk of stroke and notably, a 62 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease death.

A multi-institutional team led by researchers at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at University of California San Diego studied the impact of daily life movement to cardiovascular disease risk.

Researchers used a machine-learning algorithm to classify each minute spent while awake into one of five behaviours: sitting, sitting in a vehicle, standing still, daily life movement, or walking or running.

Daily life movement encompasses activities occurring when standing and walking within a room or patio, such as when getting dressed, preparing meals or gardening.

“The study demonstrates that all movement counts towards disease prevention,” said first author Steve Nguyen, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral scholar at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health.

“Spending more time in daily life movement, which includes a wide range of activities we all do while on our feet and out of our chairs, resulted in a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”

As part of the Women’s Health Initiative Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health study, researchers measured the physical activity of nearly 5,416 American women, who were aged 63 to 97 and who did not have heart disease at the start of the study.

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Participants wore a research-grade accelerometer for up to seven days to get accurate measures of how much time they spent moving and, importantly, the types of common daily life behaviours that result in movement and are not often included in prior studies of light and moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Those prior studies typically focused on intensity and duration of activities like running and brisk walking while the current study measured smaller movements at varying intensity during activities like cooking.

During this study, 616 women were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, 268 with coronary heart disease, 253 had a stroke, and 331 died of cardiovascular disease.

“Much of the movement engaged in by older adults is associated with daily life tasks, but it may not be considered physical activity. Understanding the benefits of daily life movement and adding this to physical activity guidelines may encourage more movement,” said senior author Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., M.P.H., Distinguished Professor and chief of the Division of Epidemiology at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health.

Get moving

There are many ways busy mums and dads, families, young people, office workers and older adults can build physical activity into their lives.

Being physically active is easier than you think, especially if you make activity part of your daily routine.

“Heavy gardening – including pushing, bending, squatting, carrying, digging and shovelling – can provide a good workout,” explains the NHS.

What’s more, being active around the house can boost the body.

The NHS cites cooking, housework and walking while the phone as activities that can help keep you mobile.

Although, the health body notes, these activities won’t count towards your weekly activity target.

Adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.

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