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Physical activity

Physical activity and exercise affect our health and links have been made to our risk of cardiovascular disease. Watch Dr Oonagh Markey explain more.
In this session, I’m going to talk about prevention of cardiovascular disease through physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour. I will start by looking at physical activity. Physical activity is simply any movement that increases energy expenditure above resting levels. Research also suggests that regular aerobic physical activity may increase HDL cholesterol. This is the protective subfraction of cholesterol. Current UK guidelines suggests that adults aged 18 to 64 years should engage in at least 150 minutes per week of at least moderate intensity aerobic activity. And it is really important that this activity is accrued in bouts of at least 10 minutes in duration for it to infer benefits.
Moderate physical activity can be achieved through brisk walking, cycling, as well as some household chores. On the other hand, you could decide that you want to engage in more vigorous physical activity. And to achieve the recommendations, you would need to engage in at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. Examples of vigorous activities include running, swimming, as well as mountain biking. So how are adults in England actually achieving these recommendations? According to Health Survey for England in 2012, suggests that we’re actually doing pretty well so that 7 out of 10 men and 6 out of 10 women are actually achieving the guidelines. However, it is important to point out that this is self-reported data so it’s subjective in nature.
And humans have a tendency to over exaggerate behaviours, such as physical activity when they have to report it in a questionnaire or survey. Physical activity can also be measured objectively. One way to look physical activity objectively is through use of accelerometry. So this is a small little tool that can be worn around the waist and it measures motion and provides information on the frequency, intensity, and duration of physical activity. In 2008, the Health Survey for England looked at seven-day accelerometry. And it was found that only 6% of men and 4% of women were actually meeting the physical activity recommendations.
It was found that a lot of the physical activity that people were engaging in was actually very sporadic in nature, and it was not actually accrued in 10-minute bouts or greater so it would not count towards the physical activity recommendations. So why not try standing up while you’re watching this video? It will help to reduce your sedentary time. It’s important to point out that sedentary behaviour is not the same as being physically inactive. It’s a separate class of behaviours that involve a low level of energy expenditure. Examples include engaging in screen-related behaviours, such as TV viewing and using a computer, as well as using motorised transport. Current UK recommendations are to reduce prolonged bouts of sedentary time.
Because it is a relatively new field of research, there are no quantitative guidelines for sedentary behaviour, like those that are in place for physical activity. The worrying thing about sedentary behaviour is that it’s independently associated with cardiovascular disease risk independent of how much moderate and vigorous physical activity you are engaging in. Therefore, even if you are active at the recommended levels of physical activity, but you have a very sedentary office-m based job you are still at risk of the negative effects that sedentary behaviour has on health. So how can we reduce sedentary behaviour?
It is still really important to achieve the physical activity recommendations, but we can try to reduce our sedentary behaviour by replacing it with light to moderate physical activity. So for example, you could engage in active transportation instead of using motorised transport. You could use the cycle to work scheme. Or you could park further away from where you need to be and walk the rest of the journey. You could reduce your screen time behaviour. So you could watch less TV. Alternatively, maybe you could stand up and do the ironing while you’re watching your favourite TV programme. Or instead of reading a book on the coach, maybe you could read it while cycling a stationary bike.
It is also important to be aware of your behaviour with regards to physical activity and sedentary behaviour so you could monitor your levels of sedentary behaviour and physical activity using an activity log or a pedometer-like device, which measures physical activity and your number of step counts. Being aware of your levels of these behaviours can help to have set goals and drive behaviour change.

As with our diet, it’s widely known that physical activity levels affect our health. Not only do activity levels impact on our energy balance – and thus weight – other links have been made between what we do, or don’t do, and our risk of cardiovascular disease.

In this video, Dr Oonagh Markey discusses how both physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are linked to cardiovascular disease and what we can do to try and prevent it.

You can download the Week 4 supplement, which contains additional images and descriptions to help you understand the topics covered in this video.

British Heart Foundation resources

How has getting more active helped other people, of all ages, fight heart disease? Find out more through the following series of 6 videos Get up and go produced by the British Heart Foundation.

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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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