Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 5, 2020

Moving every 20 minutes can help you live longer

By SHIRLEY MARINO LEE | November 1, 2018




Researchers advise heart patients to move around every 20 minuttes.

It is well known that physical activity is good for a person’s health but not many don’t know specifically how much physical activity is optimal. Recently, heart patients in Canada have been advised to move around every 20 minutes with the goal of prolonging their lives after a study was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC) 2018.

The CCC is the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals in Canada. It is widely attended by cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, researchers, nurses and other cardiovascular specialists from Canada and various other countries around the world. At the CCC, these professionals are provided with current scientific information, accredited education opportunities and a forum to connect with their colleagues. 

This year the CCC took place in Toronto, Canada from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23. Experts from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) were scheduled to participate in scientific sessions alongside experts from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS).

A study presented at the CCC investigated the quantity and duration of physical activity heart patients should execute in order to expend 770 calories. This was considered the magic number during the experiment. 

Previous research studies have shown that expending more than 770 calories per day by taking short breaks for physical activity can counteract the risk of a shorter life that results from being sedentary for long periods of time. It is especially important to inform heart patients of this since they typically spend most of their time sitting, laying down or watching television.

Study author Ailar Ramadi, from the University of Alberta, Edmonton in Canada, described ways patients could burn their 770 calories. 

“Our study shows that heart patients should interrupt sedentary time every 20 minutes with a 7 minute bout of light physical activity,” Ramadi said in a press release. “Simple activities such as standing up and walking at a casual pace will expend more than 770 kcal in a day if done with this frequency and duration.”

The study examined 132 patients with an average age of 63 years. They were each assigned to wear an armband activity monitor that measured their activity for about 22 hours a day for five days. This activity monitor was intended to measure the energy expended during the participants’ breaks from inactivity, the amount of time they were inactive, as well as the number and duration of physical activity breaks taken during sedentary hours. 

Ramadi further commented on the results of his study. 

“There is a lot of evidence now that sitting for long periods is bad for health,” Ramadi said. “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 research study, however, had some limitations. 

The ESC Prevention Spokesperson, Professor Joep Perk, identified those limitations as being the study’s small sample size and the absence of a control group. 

“A randomized controlled trial is needed before this can become a firm recommendation,” Perk said in a press release. “Nevertheless, regular physical activity is key to achieving a healthy life, whether you are a cardiac patient or not.”

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise in order to improve overall cardiovascular health. In addition to this, physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It is recommended that all people, not just heart patients, find time in their day to participate in activities such as walking, biking, swimming or jogging in order to live a healthier, longer life.

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