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Gardening, Housework May Help Boost Your Heart Health

Study of Swedish seniors found a reduced death risk of up to 30 percent

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The report was published online Oct. 28 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Traditional notions of retirement often don't support continued physical activity at this stage of life, a U.S. expert said.

"It is almost expected that as we age, we move less," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

"Retirement, a patient told me, is for sitting around, resting and watching TV," she said. "Unfortunately, sedentary lifestyles now range across all ages with the same unhealthy results: increased risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers."

The human body is designed to be moving a good portion of the day, Heller said. "The less one physically moves, the less they are able to move," she said.

Regular physical activities such as house cleaning, gardening, lawn care and climbing stairs help keep the body mobile and strong, Heller said.

"You can burn up to six times as much energy per minute when house cleaning as you do when you are sitting still. People of all ages need to be encouraged to get up off the couch and turn off the computer and TV and move," she said.

Heller said there are simple ways to add more physical activity into the day, such as the following:

  • Standing up when talking on the phone.
  • Marching in place when watching TV -- at least during the commercials.
  • Getting up from your desk every hour and doing jumping jacks, knee lifts or knee bends for three to five minutes.
  • Climbing a flight of stairs every few hours.
  • Vacuuming the house.
  • Mopping the floor.

Another expert described the physical fallout of being sedentary.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said sitting for too long may have adverse effects including burning fewer calories, and increasing insulin resistance and fats in the blood.

"Greater time spent in non-exercise physical activities can potentially counter these effects," Fonarow said. "These findings further emphasize the importance of decreasing sedentary time and encouraging everyday regular non-exercise physical activity to improve cardiovascular health."

Although the study found an association between being active around the house and reduced heart risk, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

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