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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

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects and housework may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke, Swedish researchers say.

For people 60 and older, just keeping busy with daily activities can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by nearly 30 percent and even prolong life, they added.

Being on your feet and active cuts the time spent sitting around, pointed out lead researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm.

"Sitting is mainly replacing time you spend in daily activity and vice versa," Ekblom-Bak said. A recent study found long periods of sitting actually increased the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death, she noted.

"The results of this study showed that activities of daily life are as important as regular intentional exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity," she said.

But that doesn't mean formal exercise isn't important. "We saw that those who exercised regularly and that also had a daily physically active life had the lowest risk of all," Ekblom-Bak explained.

The time people spend exercising, however, is only a small part of the day, which leaves a lot of time for daily activities or sitting, she added.

For the new study, researchers collected data on more than 3,800 men and women in Sweden who were born in 1937 and 1938. Participants were asked about their lifestyle, which included information on their diet, whether they smoked or drank alcohol, and how physically active they were.

The participants were also asked how often they took part in activities, such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects, car maintenance and blackberry picking over the past year. They were also asked about any exercise they did.

To see how heart-healthy they were, the researchers examined the participants and took blood samples to assess levels of fat and sugar. They also checked for high levels of blood-clotting factor, which is linked to a raised heart attack and stroke risk.

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.

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