The following was originally published in Kaiser Permanente’s e-newsletter Partners in Health.
Move more and sit less, or you could jeopardize your health. That’s the message of a groundbreaking new study by Kaiser Permanente.
Men who sit for more than 5 hours a day outside of work develop heart failure at a rate 36 percent higher than those who do not, according to the study, the first of its kind to look at the connection between sedentary time and the risk of heart failure.
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Men with low levels of physical activity are 50 percent more likely than those who are active to develop heart failure, a serious and sometimes fatal cardiovascular disease affecting 5.7 million Americans. The 10-year Kaiser Permanente study closely followed the behavior of more than 82,000 men ages 45 and older.
The bottom line: Even if you exercise every day, being a couch potato and sitting too much can increase your risk of heart failure.
We asked Kaiser Permanente’s fitness authority Bob Sallis, MD, a family and sports medicine physician at our Fontana Medical Center in California, to explain the study’s findings and share tips you can use to reduce sedentary time.
Q. What does heart failure mean?
A. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle fails to pump as much blood as the body needs. As a result, the body doesn’t get as much oxygen as it should, which increases the risk of death.
Q. Why does this study matter and what should I do?
A. Getting just 30 minutes per day of physical activity, like walking, 5 days a week, is one of the best things you can do for your heart health. But we can’t stop there. This study shows that even people who meet that goal may be at risk of heart failure if they spend the rest of their time sitting. Even though the study involved men, the same principles apply to women as well.
Q. What are simple ways to get more physical activity?
A. Here are a few ideas you can try.
- Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of calling or emailing.
- Use a headset on your phone so that during calls, you can walk or move around.
- Set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to get up at least once an hour.
- Take the long route to the bathroom or water fountain to increase your time out of your chair.
- When you’re watching TV, get up at each commercial break to march in place or climb the stairs.
- After dinner, walk around the block with your family or dog.
Q. Are there tools to help me get moving?
A. Yes. The complimentary Every Body Walk! app (everybodywalk.org/app) turns your smartphone into a pedometer, tracking how long and far you’ve walked. Aim for 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day.