Study Finds Any Physical Activity, Even Sleeping, Is Better than Sitting for Cardiovascular Health Interview with:
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON Can you provide more insight into how much more beneficial moderate to vigorous activities are compared to light activities or standing, in terms of measurable health outcomes?

Response: Our study suggests that the best activity that you can do for your heart is moderate-vigorous activity, followed by a trio of common daily activities: lighter activity, standing and sleeping, with sedentary behaviour being the most harmful. There was a very large and strong association between spending more time in moderate to vigorous activities and better heart health outcomes (outcomes included: BMI, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, HDL: total cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and blood glucose levels).

For example, replacing 30 min of sedentary behaviour with moderate to vigorous activity was associated with 0.63kg/m2 lower BMI (or –2.4cm lower waist circumference). If an individual were to replace the sedentary time with 30 minutes of light activity instead, we would expect to see a ~0.5 kg/m2 lower BMI. And if an individual replaced their sedentary time with 30 min of either standing or sleep, we would expect to see a ~0.4kg/m2 decrease.  These difference in benefits was much larger when considering cholesterol and triglyceride outcomes.

It was notable that heart health benefits are likely to be observed after replacing just a few minutes of sedentary/sitting time with moderate to vigorous activity. However, to achieve comparable benefits with standing or light activity, it could require 1-3 hours of replacement depending on the outcome (slightly less for measures of obesity such as BMI, much more for cardiometabolic blood biomarkers like cholesterol or triglycerides). Are there numbers to show how much sleep is better for the body than sedentary behaviour? Can we say sleeping for an hour instead of watching TV helps you lose 2lbs, or o.5BMI, or anything like that?

Response:  Replacing 30 minutes of daily sedentary behaviour with 30 minutes of sleep was associated with 0.43kg/m2 lower BMI and 1.75cm lower waist circumference. Why is sleep better than being sedentary? What is happening physiologically that is different and beneficial?

Response:  Our results stress that physical activity is most important behaviour for cardiometabolic health. Replacing sedentary behaviours with any activity can improve BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Associations between sleep and cardiometabolic health were more complex, with clear benefits of sleep replacing sitting for adioposity markers like BMI and waist circumference but negligible effects on blood-based markers such as cholesterol, trigylcerides or blood glucose levels. When considering sitting versus sleeping, the negative impact of sitting on these obesity measures is likely due to related unhealthy behaviours (e.g. snacking) rather than the physiological benefits of sleep itself.  What was the most surprising finding of the study?

Response: It is widely known already that being more active is good for heart health. Our study adds a unique perspective by considering the whole 24-hour day and provides new insights into a hierarchy of daily behaviours. The best activity that you can do for your heart is moderate-vigorous activity, followed by a trio of common daily activities: lighter activity, standing and sleeping, with sedentary behaviour being the most harmful.  What are the next steps for your research?

Response: This study is the first published analysis of study data from the Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting and Sleep consortium (ProPASS) (link) and includes data from six studies in five countries. We will publish shortly on dose-response associations between specific activity (e.g. moving, walking, running, cycling) and posture (e.g. stanidng, sitting, lying) types with cardiometabolic health. Ultimately, this research helps move us closer to more personalised – and interactive – guidance of how changing daily behaviours can improve your health.


Joanna M Blodgett, Matthew N Ahmadi, Andrew J Atkin, Sebastien Chastin, Hsiu-Wen Chan, Kristin Suorsa, Esmee A Bakker, Pasan Hettiarcachchi, Peter J Johansson, Lauren B Sherar, Vegar Rangul, Richard M Pulsford, Gita Mishra, Thijs M H Eijsvogels, Sari Stenholm, Alun D Hughes, Armando M Teixeira-Pinto, Ulf Ekelund, I Min Lee, Andreas Holtermann, Annemarie Koster, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer, ProPASS Collaboration, Device-measured physical activity and cardiometabolic health: the Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting, and Sleep (ProPASS) consortium, European Heart Journal, 2023;, ehad717,

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Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by