Men who spend a lot of their free time sitting may be increasing their risk of heart failure, even if they also make time for exercise.
“Be more active and sit less—that’s the message here,” said lead author Deborah Rohm Young, PhD. Her team’s findings appear in Circulation: Heart Failure, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).
Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes weak and doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, according to the AHA. That leads to symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. There is no cure for heart failure.
It’s long been known that exercise is good for the heart, and studies recently have linked too much sitting to cardiovascular disease and premature death regardless of exercise habits. But few studies have looked at the effects of exercise and sitting on heart failure specifically.
About the study
The study involved 82,695 men ages 45 to 69 who were members of a large health plan in California. None of the men had heart failure when the study began.
Researchers used medical records to identify risk factors like diabetes, smoking, obesity, and abnormal cholesterol or blood pressure levels. Activity levels and non-work sedentary time were assessed through questionnaires. Researchers divided the men into categories of low, medium and high activity levels, as well as by hours spent sitting. The men were followed for up to 10 years.
During that time, 3,473 of the men were diagnosed with heart failure.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found:
- Men with low physical activity levels had a 52 percent higher risk of heart failure than men with high activity levels.
- Men who sat for five or more hours a day had a 34 percent higher risk of heart failure than those who sat for two hours or less, regardless of their physical activity level.
- Men who spent at least five hours a day sitting and got little exercise had more than twice the risk of heart failure risk as men who were very physically active and sat for two hours or less.
“Our results strengthen the developing position that too much sitting is detrimental to cardiovascular health, independent of regular physical activity,” the authors wrote.
One of the study’s limitations was that it included only men, so its findings may not apply to women. In addition, it relied on the men’s self-reports of time spent sitting and being active, which may not have been accurate. How long the men sat at work also was not included in the analysis.
|The take-home message|
|If you want to reduce your risk for heart failure, you need to spend less time sitting and more time being physically active. Doing just one or the other isn’t enough.|