Take regular breaks from your desk17th January 2011
New research from Australia has found that people who have sedentary jobs could benefit from regular breaks from desk work.
Taking breaks from sitting at a desk could have a positive impact on the heart, as well as contributing to weight loss, according to the study.
Office workers could benefit from standing up, moving around or climbing stairs, with even breaks as short as a minute shown to be beneficial.
Writing in the European Heart Journal, the researchers conclude that they have found further evidence that sitting for long periods can make people more unhealthy.
People who spend a lot of time sitting down had lower levels of "good", HDL cholesterol in their blood, and were likely to have bigger waist circumferences, they said.
The study was led by Genevieve Healy of The University of Queensland, who said that the risk of deteriorating health from too much sitting could be counterbalanced, even by standing up for very short periods of time.
She said the breaks were unlikely to affect the productivity of office workers too much, and could be built into a normal day at the office.
But she said further research was needed.
Among the actions suggested by the study were standing to take phone calls, walking to see a colleague instead of phoning or e-mailing and having meetings standing up.
They also called on desk workers to use the stairs instead of the lift, and for offices to have centralised bins and printers, to encourage staff to walk across the office from time to time.
The study was based on data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The team recruited 4,757 people over the age of 20 who participated in the survey between 2003 and 2006.
For the purposes of the study, the subjects were asked to wear a monitor that tracked time spent walking or running, and had their waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood fats recorded.
The results found that those who moved about less were at greater risk for heart disease, even when socio-demographic and lifestyle differences were controlled for.
Commenting on the results, Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said that regular physical activity was essential to protect cardiovascular health.
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