Study: Even napping is better for the heart than sitting

Research that examined the effect of different activities on cardiovascular risk points to sedentary behaviour as the riskiest pasttime

A man in a dark t-shirt sits with his back to the camera at a desk in front of a computer screen with a lamp to one side, a pen in his hand and windows in front of him.

Research by University College London (UCL) scientists has examined how different movement patterns throughout the day affect heart health.

The study, which was published in European Heart Journal, examined data from 15,246 people in five different countries. 

Each participant wore a device on their thigh to track their movement throughout the day and had their heart health measured.

The scientists identified a hierarchy of behaviours on the basis of how beneficial these activities are for hearth health. Moderate to vigorous activity had the most benefits, followed by light activity, standing, sleeping and sitting.

The authors found that replacing sedentary behaviour with as little as five minutes of moderate to vigorous activity could have a noticeable effect on heart health.

Dr Jo Blodgett, of UCL, highlighted: “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.”