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Heart Health Center

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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


During more than 12 years of follow-up, 476 of the participants died from or experienced a first heart attack or stroke, and 383 died from other various causes.

People whose daily activities kept them moving reduced their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27 percent and the risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent, compared to people who spent the least amount of time on their feet.

"Promoting daily life activities is as important as recommending regular exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity," Ekblom-Bak said.

"This is particularly important for older adults as they tend to spend a greater portion of their active day performing non-exercise physical activity, as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels," she said.

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.

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