What should coronary heart disease patients do every 20 minutes?
It may be a tall order, but Canadian researchers say heart patients should aim to move every 20 minutes if they want to live longer.
Seven minutes of activity — such as standing up and light walking every 20 minutes, adding up to 21 minutes of movement for each hour spent sitting — is being advised for patients with coronary artery disease.
Previous research has shown that being sedentary for long periods can hasten death, but taking exercise breaks can lessen the risks, especially when burning more than 770kcal (3220kj) a day in “free living” energy expenditure.
The researchers have quantified what that means in terms of the activities, how many breaks and for what duration are needed to achieve that level of energy consumption.
"Our study shows that heart patients should interrupt sedentary time every 20 minutes with a seven-minute bout of light physical activity," said study author Dr Ailar Ramadi (PhD), postdoctoral fellow, at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
"Simple activities such as standing up and walking at a casual pace will expend more than 770kcal in a day if done with this frequency and duration."
In the study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto recently, 132 patients with coronary artery disease wore an armband activity monitor for an average of 22 hours for five days.
Three-quarters of the participants were men and the average age was 63.
The activity monitor recorded the amount of energy spent during breaks from inactivity, the amount of inactive time, and the number and duration of breaks during each sedentary hour.
"There is a lot of evidence now that sitting for long periods is bad for health," said Dr Ramadi in a press statement.
"Our study suggests that during each hour of sitting time, heart patients should take three breaks, which add up to 21 minutes of light physical activity.
"This will expend 770kcal a day, an amount associated with a lower risk of premature death."
Professor Joep Perk, European Society of Cardiology prevention spokesman, said the study was small and observational, and a randomised controlled trial was needed before firm recommendations could be made.
"Nevertheless, regular physical activity is key to achieving a healthy life, whether you are a cardiac patient or not,” Professor Perk said.