Even light physical activity may help your heart

Smiling senior woman gardener working in Garden center

When exercise experts talk about physical activity, they often focus on moderate and vigorous exercise — the types that get your heart pumping. But there’s a growing appreciation that any type of activity that gets you up and off the couch also may benefit your heart.

One recent study found that doing light physical activity (preparing a meal or strolling through a park, for example) may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among women in their early 60s and older (see “Low-intensity activity and heart disease risk”). The new study directly measured how much time people spent moving, using a device that tracked body movements and could assess light-intensity activity accurately, says study coauthor Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Low-intensity activity and heart disease riskA study published online March 15 by JAMA Network Open explored the role of light physical activity for preventing heart disease in older women. Here’s a summary of the findings:Who: 5,861 women ages 63 to 99 without heart disease, with an average age of 78.5.Why: To see if — and how much — light physical activity could prevent heart attacks and similar events in older women.How: The women wore motion-detecting devices (accelerometers) on their hips for seven consecutive days. Researchers then tracked the women’s health for up to nearly five years.Key findings: Women who spent the most hours in light activity (an average of 5.6 hours a day) were 42% less likely to have heart attack or die from heart disease compared with those who spent the least hours active (3.9 hours daily, on average). The more active women were also 22% less likely to develop new cardio-vascular disease.

Every little bit helps

“Historically, light physical activity hasn’t been well reported. People can tell you fairly accurately if they typically go for a 30-minute walk after dinner. But if you ask them how much time they spend cleaning up after dinner or doing other light housework, it’s more of a guesstimate,” says Dr. Lee. These new results are another reminder to spend less time sitting and more time moving — even if it’s gentle, slow movement. It’s especially good news for people in their 70s and 80s who may not be able to walk briskly or do other moderate exercise, says Dr. Lee.

Sitting for long stretches of time has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And this sedentary behavior is becoming more common: a nationally representative federal survey found that in 2016, adults were sitting for nearly an hour more per day than they did in 2007. No matter what your age, replacing some of your sedentary time with light activity will likely help your heart and overall health, Dr. Lee says.

What counts as light physical activity?Light physical activity refers to movements that require 1.6 to 2.9 metabolic equivalents (METs). Exercise researchers often use METs as a standard way to gauge exertion. The measure is based on how much oxygen the average person uses during a particular activity: A single MET is the amount of energy you expend when you’re sitting quietly. Activities rated at 2 METs use twice as much oxygen as sitting, 3 METs use three times as much oxygen, and so on.The following are examples of light physical activity:light housework (such as making a bed, preparing food, cleaning up the kitchen, doing laundry)easy gardening (such as pulling weeds and planting flowers)hobbies (such as sewing, knitting, painting, or doing arts and crafts)playing a musical instrumentplaying cardscasual walking (such as strolling around a museum or window-shopping at a mall)fishing (sitting down)playing dartsbilliardsgentle or chair yoga.

Light-intensity activities include chores people do often anyway, such as shopping, cooking, and doing light housework. But many hobbies, including playing music, sewing, or billiards also count as light activity, even if you’re sitting down part or all of the time (see “What counts as light physical activity?”). Doing volunteer work such as helping in a soup kitchen, library, or school is another good way to add more movement to your routine.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 

Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14 

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 

We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9  NIV

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1Corinthians 13:2 NIV

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16  NIV 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. Ephesians 5:25-26  NIV 

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