Many bad habits can raise your risk for heart disease, such as smoking, a poor diet, and not getting much physical activity. But does watching television also raise your risk? It’s not your favorite shows, but rather the time you spend sitting, that can make it more likely for you to get heart disease.
Find out how a sedentary lifestyle adversely affects your heart and what you can do to get more active.
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What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
You’ve heard the term “couch potato,” right? A person with a sedentary lifestyle gets little to no physical activity on a regular basis. Sedentary activities include anything you do while sitting down, like driving to and from work every day, watching television, working on a computer, playing video games, or reading.
When you sit for long periods of time, your body doesn’t work as well as it can. You don’t burn as many calories as you would while standing or doing another activity, which can make it harder to stay at a healthy weight. Your heart rate also slows down, which means your blood doesn’t pump as effectively as it should.
While the exact link between sitting and health problems isn’t fully understood yet, research shows that the more you sit, the more likely you are to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
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How Does Physical Activity Help Your Heart?
Regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can lower your risk of many diseases, including heart disease. Physical activity can benefit your heart by helping you:
- Control your weight and blood pressure, which lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
- Raise your “good” cholesterol, which takes some of the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood.
- Keep your blood sugar level in a healthy range, which lowers your risk of diabetes.
- Make your heart and lungs stronger and more able to pump oxygen into your blood.
- Fight depression, which can be linked to heart disease
Getting More Active for Your Heart
You don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite shows, but you do need to be mindful of how much time you spend watching TV and doing other sedentary activities instead of being physically active.
If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of physical activities you’d like to try like walking, biking, dancing, or playing a sport — and then talk to your doctor about what is safe for you. You can also try these simple tips for adding more activity to your daily routine:
- Watch your favorite 30-minute show while walking or jogging on a treadmill.
- Break up your activity into smaller portions of time. If you don’t have 30 minutes for a walk, take three 10-minute walks instead.
- At work, make sure you stand up for a few minutes each hour.
- Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email.
- Stand up while talking on the phone.
- Pick a parking spot at the back of the lot at work or when shopping or running errands.
- Take a few extra laps around the shopping mall.
- Choose the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Skip dessert and go for a walk after dinner.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.