Why it’s Time to Start Paying Attention to Heart Health in the Workplace
By: Heather Lielmanis
I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy person who is doing the right things, most of the time. To be honest, I’ve never even paid much attention to stories about the negative issues of heart health. I’ve even dismissed this important issue as a concern not for people like me, but for people with lifestyles that are simply different from mine. It wasn’t until a close friend who was healthy in all respects was diagnosed with heart failure, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy to be exact, that I sat up and started to pay attention to this very important subject.
How can someone like my friend, so healthy, so fit and so young, be faced with such a serious heart condition?
It turns out that traditional risk factors such as heredity, poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking are not the only things that can contribute to heart disease. Prolonged periods of sitting, which are common in most workplaces, can also contribute to an increased risk of heart disease (among other concerns such as diabetes, obesity and some cancers), even among those who do not partake in the more obvious types of unhealthy behaviour.
We all know instinctively that we need regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that “adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.” This sounds reasonable, however, the most surprising statement I’ve read about heart health is that even regular exercise cannot offset the negative effects associated prolonged periods of sitting.
This means that even a daily workout cannot make up for the seven, eight or more hours that many people spend sitting at the office every day. Those who think they’re keeping healthy by exercising regularly should seriously consider their sitting habits to ensure that they aren’t putting themselves at risk.
From a physiological perspective, sitting puts a strain on the body, including the heart. It causes a decrease in blood circulation, and a reduction in oxygen intake. It reduces the rate at which calories are burned, and can also be hard on the neck, back and joints. If we sit all day long, we can likely attest to the fact that it just doesn’t feel good. These negatives about sitting all day affect most of us, but what are we to do when our livelihood requires us to sit at a desk day after day?
The good news is that there is a simple solution. It is possible to break up prolonged periods of sitting by stretching, walking, or simply standing up, and thus, reduce the negative impact of long hours of sitting on the body. And, simple changes such as these can be done without sacrificing productivity in the workplace. Some ways to incorporate regular movement into your work day include:
- Commit to standing during meetings or while on the phone,
- Make a habit of getting away from your desk for lunch,
- Schedule time in your calendar for regular standing or stretching sessions,
- Plan walking meetings with your colleagues,
- Evaluate your workspace to ensure you have furniture and equipment to make it easy to stand, stretch and walk.
Whether you exercise regularly, or aim to find more time for a workout or two in your weekly routine, there are also benefits to re-thinking how your work habits are affecting your heart health. Strive to achieve the weekly recommendations for physical activity, and incorporate regular movement into your daily workday. The benefits are many, but a healthy heart is arguably the most important consideration.
Heather Lielmanis is the VP of Business Development at Fitneff Inc. Fitneff is dedicated to providing innovative products and solutions that help busy people make their productive time more active. Fitneff offers a full suite of walking desks, sit-stand desks and active accessories that allow you to incorporate movement into your work day.