For Better Heart Health, Studies Say Step to It

If you’re sitting down, the findings of two major new studies led by School of Public Health and Health Professions researchers are likely to get you moving.

“Sit less, walk more for heart health. ”
Michael LaMonte.

Women who met the federal physical activity guideline of 30 minutes per day of moderate activity exclusively through walking had a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension, according to a paper published in the American Heart Association journal “Hypertension.”

The study also reports that women who did not achieve recommended levels of walking but who walked at 2 mph (a 30-minute mile) or faster still had a reduced risk of hypertension.

Another study of more than 80,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79, published in “Circulation: Heart Failure,” reports that more time spent in sedentary behavior while awake, such as sitting or lying on the couch, is associated with higher risk of heart failure hospitalization.

In fact, women who spent more than 9.5 hours per day sitting or lying down had a 42% higher risk of developing heart failure during the nine years after first assessing sedentary time through the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. This finding was evident even after accounting for physical activity levels and heart failure risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart attack.

Taken together, the two papers send a powerful message: “Sit less, walk more for heart health,” says Michael LaMonte, PhD, MPH, research associate professor of epidemiology in SPHHP. LaMonte was the first author on the “Circulation: Heart Failure” study and senior author on the “Hypertension” paper.

Both papers relied on data collected over time from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative.

“The WHI participants have provided us information on the importance of walking, regular activity and avoidance of sedentary time in prevention of both hypertension and heart failure,” said Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, a coauthor on both studies and SPHHP dean. “Walking and moving are simple activities that can be easily integrated into our daily lives.”