The days of putting in a hard day of physical labor are long gone, as office workers now spend seven, eight or even more hours sitting in front of a computer. A recent report shows that this sedentary work lifestyle is dangerous to one’s overall health. The effects, particularly on people who don’t exercise regularly when they aren’t working, can be detrimental.

The report, published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine”, combined the results of nearly 50 studies that investigated the effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Sitting at a desk, commuting, or even watching television for extended periods of time each day can lead to an increased chance of having a stroke or heart attack. In addition, sedentary behavior may lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, or dementia, even in people who exercise up to an hour a day but remain inactive for the rest of the time.

Exercises That Keep Your Heart Healthy
Experts suggest a number of different steps you can take to improve heart health, even when you must sit for hours at a time because of your job or commute. The key, according to researchers, is to get up and move at least a few minutes each hour.

It’s been suggested that being active one to three minutes every half hour, by standing up or walking, will help decrease the negative impacts on your cardiovascular health.

  • Stand up from your chair and jog in place for one minute. Take a short break of just a few seconds, then jog in place for another minute. Keeping your knees high should be your focus.
  • Wander around the office as you work. When you need to contemplate your next task, stand up and take a short stroll. It doesn’t have to be fast, but you do need to keep moving.
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you’re going up one, two, or even three floors, the stairs will give your heart a good workout. Taking stairs down a few flights provides needed physical exercise as well.
  • Consider getting a standing desk. This type of workstation is becoming more popular as employees begin to realize how sitting affects their health.
  • Research shows that obesity decreases and other health problems are less likely to occur in workers who stand rather than sit for most of their work day.

Exercises That Help Your Body
Your heart isn’t the only part of your body impacted by excessive sitting. Your shoulders, back, neck and hands all feel it too. There are some quick exercises you can do while you’re sitting to help relieve the tension and stress that builds up in your muscles throughout the day.

  • Do a body twist. Reach as far as you can to the back of your chair with one hand and grab the chair armrest with the other hand. Twist your body as far toward the back of the chair as possible so that you’re looking behind yourself. Hold for several seconds then straighten your body and twist to the other side.
  • Stand up and sit down at your desk without using your hands. Working your legs and torso will help keep your entire body more flexible.
  • Shake your head and shrug your shoulders. Lift your shoulders as far as you can toward your ears and hold them there for three counts then lower them. Slowly shake your head up and down and from side to side to help ease muscle strain.
  • Stretch your fingers. Point the fingers of one hand toward the ground and use your other hand to gently stretch the fingers back toward your wrist. Do the same thing with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling.

Your job is necessary, but it shouldn’t harm your health while you’re doing it. Taking the time to do some quick and easy but beneficial exercises throughout your workday should help you fight off an increased risk of cardiovascular and other health problems that could otherwise impact your life.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Kim Tacconi, PA-C

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