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Keep moving, stay healthy

By Kathryn Doyle in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-04 07:22

Keep moving, stay healthy

Expert suggest eldly people cut down on sitting time in addition to working out regularly. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A generally active life, even without regular exercise sessions, was tied to better heart health and greater longevity in a study of older Swedes.

Based on nearly 3,900 men and women over age 60 in Stockholm, the study adds to evidence suggesting that just sitting around may be actively harmful, researchers say.

"We have known for 60 years that physical activity is important for the heart," says lead author Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Astrand Laboratory of Work Physiology of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm.

But until recently the research has mainly focused on exercise and has "forgotten" about the background activity that we do during daily life, she says.

Whether someone exercises vigorously or not, it still usually only takes up a small fraction of the day. That leaves the rest of the time for either sitting still or engaging in non-exercise activities, like home repairs, gardening, car maintenance and hunting or fishing.

For older people, who tend to exercise vigorously less than younger people, spending more time doing low-intensity activities like these could help cut down on sitting time, Ekblom-Bak and her colleagues write in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"These are fascinating findings," says David Dunstan, of the Baker IDI Heart& Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, "but not really surprising since other studies that have looked at this from a different angle-that is, describing the detrimental relationship between excessive sitting and mortality outcomes."

While sitting, muscles do not contract and blood flow decreases, which reduces the efficiency of many body processes, like absorbing glucose from the blood, says Dunstan, who studies heart health and exercise.

"In addition to engaging in regular health-enhancing exercise, people should be encouraged to also think about what they do during the long periods in the day in which they are not exercising," he says.


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