Running, biking, going to the gym — your doctor may have told you that one of the only ways to reduce your risk of heart disease is to get moderate to vigorous daily exercise.
But a new study from the University of California, San Diego suggests that these are not the only ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, especially in older women. In fact, household activities and daily movement — simple tasks like washing dishes, cooking, dressing, and gardening — all help improve your heart health.
Researchers found that women who logged at least four hours of daily movement had a 43% lower risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, a 30% lower risk of stroke, and a 62% lower risk of dying from stroke. ‘heart disease compared to women with less than two hours of daily life movement each day.
“The movement of everyday life includes all the movements the body makes from the moment we get out of bed until the moment we go to bed”, Steve Nguyen, PhD, first author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, told SeniorsMatter. “We hope our study will add that extra dimension to increase the amount of movement we have in our lives and that activities of daily living that an individual already counts as movement.”
The movements of daily life include all the movements that the body makes from the moment we get out of bed until the moment we go to bed.
Nguyen and her colleagues analyzed nearly 5,416 American women between the ages of 63 and 97 who did not have heart disease at the start of the study. Participants wore a research-grade accelerometer for up to seven days to get accurate measurements of the frequency and intensity of daily movements and behaviors.
A machine learning algorithm then identified each minute spent while participants were awake in one of five behaviors: sitting, sitting in a vehicle, standing still, walking, running, or moving in everyday life.
After nearly seven years of follow-up, they found that 616 women had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, 268 had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, 253 had had a stroke, and 331 women had died of heart or blood disease. . In general, women who spent more time standing and moving were less likely to develop heart disease and/or die from it. The results were also consistent across different racial groups, including between black, white, and Hispanic women.
“Current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines focus primarily on higher-intensity activities such as exercise, which are unattainable for some older adults,” John Bellettiere, PhD, co-author and assistant professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, told SeniorsMatter. “Understanding the extent to which daily activities can prevent chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease may help modify these physical activity recommendations to be more inclusive and motivating for older adults.”
How do daily household activities reduce the risk of heart disease?
Nguyen said any movement — from putting on clothes to running a marathon — has heart health benefits. And many activities like lifting pots for cooking, throwing out trash, washing dishes, and vacuuming floors require physical movement and effort, as do walking, running, and lifting weights.
“The heart doesn’t distinguish where the movement is coming from,” he said. “The benefits of movement in everyday life are similar to the benefits of other activities like walking, such as muscle activation, increased energy expenditure (more calories burned), and improved cholesterol and metabolism. .”
The heart does not distinguish where the movement comes from. The benefits of everyday life movement are similar to the benefits of other activities.
Other movements of daily living include self-care, walking inside or outside your home, housework, getting mail, shopping, and any activity that requires you to be on your feet and up.
Can household activities replace other types of exercise?
Everyday movements can replace or supplement certain types of exercise, but it depends on each person’s situation, Nguyen said. For some seniors, it can be difficult to respond to standard physical activity guidelines 150 minutes per week due to safety issues, accessibility or uncertainty about their options.
If this is the case, people who find it difficult to move around enough due to factors such as weather or transportation may accumulate more daily movements in the house.
While housework, gardening, cooking, and other activities of daily living aren’t a direct replacement for moderate or vigorous exercise, they add up and still count. In other words, any move is better than none.
Does this apply to other gender and age groups?
The study results only apply to older women, but Nguyen said other studies could find similar health benefits for men and younger age groups. On average, almost 90% of the movements of women in the OPACH study were movements of daily life, which could be similar for men.
He added that light physical activity, which accounts for more than two-thirds (69%) of movements in daily life, has been demonstrated in other studies be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in men.
What else can you do?
Beyond normal exercise and daily household activities, health experts recommend reducing any sedentary time (sitting activity). This is based on other research which shows that longer periods of sitting are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Any activity that individuals do that involves movement will apply,” Nguyen said. “Older adults looking to increase movement for health reasons should consider performing larger daily movements as part of their strategy. Move more and sit less.