Patients suffering from heart diseases are advised to take breaks from sedentary activities such as watching TV and sitting down every 30 minutes. New study found that heart patients who spend longer periods of time inactive have worse health conditions compared to patients who try to curb sedentary activities. The result is consistent despite regular exercise.

Past study revealed that an inactive lifestyle contribute to the increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, until recently, the effects of sedentary lifestyle in heart patients had not been established.

"Limiting the amount of time we spend sitting may be as important as the amount we exercise," said University of Ottawa's Stephanie Prince, the study's lead author. Prince added that people should take breaks from sedentary behaviors such as working in front of a computer, sitting down, watching TV and driving a car.

The recent study analyzed the health effects of varying levels of inactive behavior among 278 coronary artery disease patients. The heart patients had been part of a cardiac rehabilitation program wherein they learned how to improve levels of long-term exercises that could improve their health. To measure the number of hours spent on active and inactive behaviors, the patients were asked to wear an activity monitor for nine days during waking hours.

Various health markers were gauged including cardio-respiratory fitness level and body mass index. The researchers analyzed if the amount of time spent on sedentary behavior has an effect on the health markers. In the study, majority of the sedentary behavior translated to sitting down. It was also found that heart patients who spent more time sitting had higher body mass index and lower levels of cardio-respiratory fitness.

"It is important to limit prolonged bouts of sitting in addition to be physically active," Prince said. "Sedentary time may be another area of focus for cardiac rehabilitation programs along with exercise." The findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The Ottawa Heart Institute recommends standing up during commercial. Heart patients can also do light exercises even while watching their favorite shows. It is important to get up and eat away from the computer screen. Setting alarms for 'mini breaks' is also helpful for people who get so busy during the day they don't realize they had been sitting for hours.

Photo: Stephen Bowler | Flickr

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