All movement can help improve heart health—even cooking and gardening, study finds

Getting out off the sofa to complete small activities can be effective for reducing heart issues for older adults

Older woman staying active by cooking
(Image credit: Getty)

The recommendations for how much physical exercise older adults should do to stay fit and avoid age-related issues varies, and can often sound unmanageable for some. Good news has arrived in a recent study, revealing that just getting up and about to complete daily tasks around the house can help ward off heart-related illness.

Most people will know that diet plays a big role in boosting a person's heart health. Not only are there tablets and supplements such as the best fish oil supplements to help with this but avoiding foods like red and processed meats and refined carbohydrates will also help to prevent heart disease.

Fortunately, science has found that 'daily life movement' in the form of cooking and various other tasks can significantly benefit your cardiovascular health. 

The findings from recent research could mean better health doesn't always equate to running and bounding out of the door into vigorous physical exertion. But getting off the sofa and cooking your meals (one of the best air fryers from our guide can help if you want to cook healthier meals) or even gardening can improve the health of your heart as you grow older.

Older woman gardening

(Image credit: Getty)

A team of researchers at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California San Diego wanted to measure the impact of daily life movement on cardiovascular disease risk. 

The study that is now published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (opens in new tab) used a self-learning software to measure the physical activity of almost 5,416 American women, aged between 63 and 97, who didn't have heart disease at the beginning of the study. 

The software classified each of the participants' minutes spent awake into one of five behaviors, this included, sitting, sitting in a vehicle, standing still, daily life movement, or walking or running. The study defined 'daily life movement' as any activity that involves standing and walking within a room or outdoor patio. For example, getting dressed, cooking meals, and gardening fell under this category.

After analyzing the results, the researchers revealed that participants who spent at least four hours of daily movement had a 43% lower risk of cardiovascular disease than participants who completed less than two hours of daily life movement. The former group also had a 43% lower risk of coronary heart disease, 30% lower risk of stroke, and a significantly lower risk (62%) of death related to cardiovascular disease.

The first author of the study, Steve Nguyen, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral scholar at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health said, "The study demonstrates that all movement counts towards disease prevention."

However, if you're able to partake in light cardio exercise in the form of a jog in a pair of best running shoes for women or low impact HIIT workout this is still advised for more physically active older adults (always consult with your doctor before taking on any new fitness regimes). This is because research from the American Heart Association has discovered how cardio exercise helps our brains as well as weight loss and heart health.

To stay in check with your cardiovascular health some of the best heart rate monitors are a good way to keep check of this and can suit all budgets depending on how advanced a tracker you are looking for.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.