The Heart Healthy Office
Moving Your Way to Wellness
Work- Day Exercise and Diet Tips for a Happy Heart
Many of us spend upwards of 40 hours in an office environment each week, whether that time is in an actual office building or sitting at our desks at home, not to mention the time we sit in cars, trains and busses. Not moving around much at all and/or mindlessly consuming unhealthy snacks while we’re rushing to meet deadlines can easily become unhealthy habits.
By now, we all know these habits can put us at a higher risk for heart diease.1 The good news is that making little tweaks to your diet and exercise habits can make BIG heart-healthy differences.
Do your heart a favor and get moving
Exercise does a cardiovascular system good. Consider these exercise recommendations from the American Heart Association for optimal health:
- 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (defined as weight- lifting, walking, calisthenics) OR
- 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercises (defined as jogging, swimming, running, bicycling, and other aerobic exercises) OR
- a combination of both1
And, if you can squeeze in just a little more than the recommended time in doing the above exercises, you decrease your risk of an untimely death, from any cause, by 21%-31%.1 So, the message is, once you’ve achieved your daily exercise goal, go ahead and challenge yourself to move just a little more.
Why exercise is a must-do for heart health
Let’s take a look at the impact of physical activity on our cardiovascular system.
Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger as a result of exercise, so it can:
· Pump more blood through the body with every beat, and
· Continue working at maximum level, if needed, with less strain2
Plus, exercise has a number of effects that benefit the heart and circulation, including:
· Improving cholesterol and fat levels
· Reducing inflammation in the arteries
· Helping weight loss programs, and
· Helping to keep blood vessels flexible and open2
Sneak in some exercise at the office
Remember that roughly 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week? You will experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day.1 You can tackle at least a couple of those during the workday, right? Sure you can!
Here are some ideas to make it happen:
While you work…
Try incorporating one or two of these ideas this week
- If all you’re going to do is talk, take that meeting outside
- Same goes for phone calls: if you don’t need to reference important documents, take a walk with your mobile phone. If you do need to reference important documents, stand up while talking on the telephon
- Drop that telephone and walk down the hall to speak with someone in their office—it’s a great opportunity to get away from your desk and stretch your legs.
- Exercise at your desk. Do some tricep desk dips or balance on an exercise ball. Stash some free weights in your drawer, or so some jumping jacks while no one’s looking. Here are some more ideas from WebMD.
“Think outside” of the car, train, or bus.
· Visit your gym or health club on your way to or from the office.
· If you drive, park at the far end of the parking lot and enjoy some extra steps.
· If you take public transportation, get off the train or bus a stop ahead of your destination and “hoof it” the rest of the way.
· Pass by the elevator and take the stairs. A 2010 study of sedentary workers found that using the stairs at work can help improve cardiovascular fitness, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.3
Sure, you can spend lunchtime and break times sitting at your desk, but why not change your shoes, get a change of scenery, and get your blood pumping a little?
· Go to the gym for your daily workout.
· Walk around the building a few times…and bring a friend.
· Climb up and down the stairs.
You can even take your healthy habits on the road.
- Walk around the terminal while waiting for the plane at the airport.
- Stay at hotels with fitness centers or swimming pools—and use them.
- Pack a jump rope or a resistance band in your suitcase when you travel so you can workout in your hotel room.
Healthy diet tips for the workday
Go ahead and indulge in the office party treats now and then, but strive for healthy eating on most days. Following the heart healthy eating guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association is easy with a little planning, whether you’re brown-bagging it or buying your lunch at the nearest deli.
Here are some tips for making healthy choices at the office:
· In the lunch loom – Pack nutrition into your mid-day meal by building a delicious salad, stacking your whole-grain sandwich bread with lean protein and lots of veggies, and opting for non-sugary drinks. If you do indulge, keep your servings small and pair that pizza with a salad.
· At your desk – Replace the milk chocolate in the candy dish and the crave-worthy treats from your drawers with heart-healthy snacks like dark chocolate and nuts.
· In your cup – Dehydration can make you hungry and sleepy, a combination that can lead you toward the stale pastries leftover from that breakfast meeting. Why not carry around a bottle of water or sip on some tea to keep that pseudo-hunger at bay?
· From the vending machine – By mid-afternoon, the sugary and salty treats (usually loaded with trans fats) might be calling your name. If you didn’t bring a healthy snack from home and you simply must visit the vending machine, opt for sunflower seeds, pretzels, or whole grain chips…and pack a snack for tomorrow.
1- Getting more exercise than guidelines suggest may further Lower Death Risk. www.heart.org. (2023, January 24). Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/07/25/getting-more-exercise-than-guidelines-suggest-may-further-lower-death-risk#:~:text=The%20American%20Heart%20Association%20recommends,federal%20guidelines%20for%20physical%20activity.
2- Exercise and the heart. Exercise and the Heart | Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2023, January 5). Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercise-and-the-heart#:~:text=Additional%20benefits%20of%20exercise%3A,rate%20and%20lower%20blood%20pressure