Step out and Gently Does It for a Far Healthier Heart; Dr Richard Metcalfe Explains Why Light Physical Activity Is Vital for Fitness Together with More Vigorous Exercise

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 22, 2019 | Go to article overview

Step out and Gently Does It for a Far Healthier Heart; Dr Richard Metcalfe Explains Why Light Physical Activity Is Vital for Fitness Together with More Vigorous Exercise


Byline: Dr Richard Metcalfe

MOST people probably don't think of everyday activities - such as hanging out the washing or putting away the groceries - as having an effect on their long-term health. But new research suggests that doing lots of these light-intensity physical activities reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.

For most people, light physical activity makes up the bulk of their daily physical activity. Yet government guidelines focus almost exclusively on moderate to vigorous physical activity. The difficulty of measuring a person's light-intensity physical activity largely explains this disconnect.

It is not possible to measure light physical activity with a questionnaire. The amount of light-intensity physical activity a person thinks they have done bears almost no resemblance to what they have actually done. This means it has been difficult to study the effects of lightintensity physical activity on longterm health.

This new study, published in JAMA Network Open, was able to more accurately measure light physical activity in nearly 6,000 older women using an accelerometer (a motiondetecting device) that was worn for seven days. Over the next five years, those women doing the most light activity (six hours or more a day) were 46% less likely to have a heart attack or die from one. And they were 26% less likely to suffer any form of cardiovascular "event" (stroke, severe angina), compared with women who did the least amount of light activity - three hours or less per day.

There was clear evidence of a dose-response relationship: the more time people spent doing light activities, the more they reduced their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Every extra hour of light activity above three hours reduced the risk of heart attack by about 15%. Light-intensity activity appeared to be important even when levels of higher-intensity physical activity were taken into account.

One criticism of the study is that it is cross-sectional (a snapshot in time) and can never definitively prove the direction of the relationship observed. It is possible that the ability to do lots of light-intensity activities is a sign of good health rather than a cause of good health. So it's important to follow up with intervention studies that aim to increase light physical activity and see whether this can reduce the rates of cardiovascular disease.

Still, there is some evidence from smaller studies that light activity is important for our long-term health. …

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