NEW HYDE PARK, NY – Sitting for long periods can affect a person’s blood vessels and lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other ailments, a recent statement from the American Heart Association warned. Anyone with a sedentary lifestyle can stand up to the latest findings – thanks to suggestions from Northwell Health cardiologists.
“It is clear that even light activity, such as walking around the home or office for three minutes every half hour, is sufficient to immunize oneself against the harmful effects of sedentary behavior,” said Howard Levite, MD, director of cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital. “Recent reports of the beneficial effects of fidgeting relate to its effect on calorie use but do not address the overall health consequences of sitting in one place.”
Some companies, such as technology startups, have office spaces with open floors plans so employees are encouraged to walk or scooter around, Dr. Levite explained. Stand-up work stations and in-house gyms are also becoming more common in the workplace.
Both Puneet Gandotra, MD, director of clinical cardiology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, and David A. Friedman, MD, director of heart failure services at LIJ Valley Stream, said just because your job requires you to sit at a desk does not mean you have to remain there the entire work day. Setting an alarm every hour to get up and walk around can be helpful, Dr. Gandotra suggested. People who typically eat lunch at their desks can also eat elsewhere to get a few additional steps or use part of that time to take a walk, he added.
“For approximately every 60-90 minutes of desk work, my suggestion is to get up, stretch and walk around the office for 5-10 minutes, which is sensible and also helps for social and professional networking and probably helps with circulation improvement,” Dr. Friedman said. “Plus it perhaps helps with some endorphin/good hormone mental flow.”
Wearing a pedometer or Fitbit can also help people realize how many steps they have taken during their day and perhaps make up those additional steps after work, Dr. Gandotra said.
Another clever way to get in more steps – drink lots of water.
“Drinking plenty of water, flavored waters and/or high quality juice during the course of the day helps both with hydration and to stimulate the need to get up to go to the bathroom, which is further reason to get up, stretch and walk around,” Dr. Friedman said.
Another way to get in some extra steps is to print documents to the furthest printer in the office, according to Evelina Grayver, MD, director of the coronary care unit at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.– People can also walk to a coworker’s desk to discuss something rather than calling or emailing, Dr. Grayver said.
If you need some motivation to get moving, try making it a competition. Weight loss incentives can be a powerful tool. So are financial rewards, such as getting a health insurance reimbursement for going to the gym, Dr. Friedman suggested.
“I recommend to those who have long office work hours to purchase a home stationary bicycle or home elliptical/treadmill type machine and exercise just before leaving at home in the morning for about five minutes and about five minutes at home before they unwind when getting back in the evening,” Dr. Friedman said. “Gradually increasing to about 10 minutes both in the morning and in the evening, in addition to added more vigorous gym time, could be also performed during the course of the week. In the long-term, these better lifestyle practices may still counteract a sedentary workday.”
Too much trouble? If those options don’t seem feasible, stretching exercises while you are sitting will help to keep your muscles more active and your blood flowing, Dr. Gandotra said.