Improve Heart Health with Short Activity Breaks

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When I'm busy at work, I can easily go a few hours without getting up to move around. All of a sudden I'll look at the clock and think "Geez, when was the last time I stood up?" So I'll take a quick break, even if it's just to walk down the hall or go to the bathroom. I find those quick breaks give me a quick boost of energy and improve my concentration levels when I sit down to start working again. New research shows those quick breaks might also be keeping my weight in check and improving my health.

Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved 4,800 men and women ages 20 and up. Participants wore an accelerometer to measure their walking, running and sitting routines for a week. Researchers found that those people who took the most breaks from sitting (even if they had an office job and were sedentary for most of the day) had smaller waist lines and lower triglyceride levels than those who did not take activity breaks.

What's really interesting is that the negative impact of long bouts of inactivity even applied to those who exercise regularly. So even if you're a regular exerciser, if you are sedentary for most of the day you should still try to get up periodically. According to one of the researchers, "Even if you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, what you do for the rest of the day may also be important for your cardiovascular health." This research suggests that even small changes to a person's activity levels [as little as standing up regularly] might help to lower cardiovascular risk."

At work, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk down the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email. Outside of work, park further away in the parking lot or walk instead of using the moving sidewalk at the airport. All of those small bits of activity can really add up.

Looking for more ways to fit short activity breaks into your day? Find out how Small Bits of Fitness Add Up and get ideas for 60-Second Health and Fitness Boosters.

What do you think? If you have a desk job, do you try to fit short activity breaks into your day?

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Don't have to worry about a desk I don't work. Report
I'm trying to incoorporate some breaks at work. But, I find it difficult. Report
I set the alarm on my phone for either 30 or 45 mins to ring to remind me to get up and stretch. You can get so absorbed in what you are working on, that time flies, and you forget! Report
I do do this ... and have ALWAYS done this as I am a VERY restless person and don't sit still for long anyway ... BUT I AM STILL OVERWEIGHT!!! There has to be more that I can do! My dad was a type II diabetic and I fear that I am heading in that direction tho I TRY to eat the way I'm s'posed to (I HAVE TO have at least 1 cookie every day tho) ... may be what I did in the past can't be fixed now?? I'm 56. Report
I try to remember to incorporate exercise, but working in a one person office with tight deadlines, it is easy to forget Report
I'm the only one in my position for the hours I work, so I can't leave my desk for more that 5 minutes or so. I have found a route through the halls that takes me just over 5 minutes, and I try to walk it every hour or so. I don't always make it, I get called back to the computer about half the time, but It still gets me up and moving. Report
My workplace is casual, so I replaced my desk chair with a Swiss ball and take "motion breaks"--just stretching my legs to either side, rolling the ball around a little, etc. Sometimes people are amused by it, but after they've seen it, they want to give it a try! I also walk to the water fountain and/or the restroom about once an hour :) Report
I get up once an hour and go up and down the stairs a few times. I also go to the farthest restroom and make sure I take at least five flights of stairs each time. Report
I make it a point to get up from my desk at least once an hour Report
I set a timer for one hour and then get away from the computer and get involved with some other activity. Then got back to the computer and start the process again. Report
I don't work outside the home, but I still get in front of the computer and get busy and before I know it the time has flown! Thanks for all the suggestions. Jean Report
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in things I have to remind myself to go to the bathroom!! I like the watch timer idea--maybe I need to tune into the bells at school and use them as my cue! Report
I will walk in place while waiting on the fax machine or the photo copier. I have also started standing up and walking the 2 steps to the desk, instead of rolling the chair, to answer the phone when working on the computer Report
I can completely relate to this article. I will sit down at my desk and not seem to even stand up for hours on end. Not good. I've been more aware of it and a pedometer helps bunches. Report
Since starting Spark, I try to move more even when watching TV. I'll get up and do a set of wall pushups or the Plank. Another reminder that I need to move is the stiffness/pain I get when inactive for more than 20 min. (fibromyalgia) Report
Many years ago my doctor suggested that I take a runners watch (the kind that will beep on the hour) to work with me and do stretches and twists every time it beeped. I was having back problems and this was to keep my spine from 'freezing up'. It WORKED!! Even better would be a short walking break added to that! Report
It is a nice reminder. I like the timer idea. I too drink a lot of water so I am getting up a lot just to get to the bathroom! lol! That keeps me moving. When I am in the bathroom I use the time (and the privacy) to do things like wall pushups or jumping jacks or just something to move. I brought some weights into the office so I can lift some weights so that I move and work on my stress. I try to stand up a lot more too!

Thanks for all the ideas! Report
I usually take a 30 minute walk at lunch time. Unfortunately, the weather has been pretty bad around here, thus making it difficult to go out. However, the weather has improved, so I'll get back outside for a walk around the neighborhood. Report
Some times I just don't have the common sense enough to get up, in my mind I am telling myself (so much work, got to meet deadline); therefore I keep at it. My body lets me know that I should break away but many times I continue on, sad to say when my legs start to hurt I will then get up and walk around a little. I really need to do better and I will. Report
I get restless and have to get up and move around - so I do - luckily, my job involves working with kids individually, so I have to move around the school building to find them and bring them to my office - Report
I just learned something. Thank you! Report
We all need to move. Report
yes little half hour and twenty minute spurts of shoveling snow... it was so heavy
I did it about 5 times Report
Nice post, but it feels more like an article than a blog. Report
I wonder how often it is that you should get up and moving? Report
So true! There are many ways you can get up and move around and this will be very beneficial. Not only will you get needed exercise but it gives you a chance to regroup, clear the cobwebs and connect with other employees. It's not good to be pasted to one spot for hours at a time. Sometimes we think that we can't afford the time to take these breaks but really we can't afford not to take them. Report
i have to get up to go down the hall to the printer, or to talk with the other people i work with if i need to talk with one of them. also, my supervisor is really into yoga and she is always reminding us to "get up and stretch" Report
My solution is to have a standing desk at work. I walk in place when I am not typing, and it's MUCH easier to go out and around, b/c I'm already "up." I come home less tired. Report
I just drink my water, and that always means I won't stay at my desk too long. :-) I always wonder if it is the water that helps the weight loss because I move around more going to and from that bathroom. I also walk at lunchtime. It is a great way to clear your head form the mornings work. I like SM-ARTGIRL's idea of pedal powered technology. Report
I just started making Spark Appointments to make sure I got up and move. Report
When I was just starting to work on my dissertation, I took a seminar on writing dissertations and one of the the things they suggested was that you set a timer for every 45 minutes and when the timer went off, get up and do something. It didn't have to be a lot; you could step outside, change a load of laundry, use the bathroom, whatever. The idea was that the regular breaks helped you stay focused while the timer meant that you weren't looking at the clock all the time.

45 minutes seems really short to me--sometimes ti can take me 30-40 minutes just to reorient myself, so I tend to go with a longer block of time--more like an hour and a half. But the regular breaks do help. And better for me, I take those breaks to stretch out my hands and it helps reduce problems from my carpal tunnel, though not 100%.

I work at home, so I have a lot more flexibility than most when it comes to what I do on my breaks--I might put some dishes away, or do laundry, or go check on the mail, or whatever. But at the office you have options too. If you have an office, you can do some exercises--lunges, squats, etc. Even in an open office where you don't have much privacy, you can walk to the bathroom, or refill your mug at the water cooler (since we're supposed to be drinking those 8 cups a day!) or whatever.

I am however very reluctant to walk to a person's office rather than sending an email., however. 1) email is a written record, which can be handy--for both people. 2) Emails are less disruptive. If I walk down to the other person, they may be in the middle of something. But if I send an email with my question, they can respond when they are at a stopping point... and then I can respond in turn when I get to another stopping point.

So that part doesn't work for me, but the taking a break and getting up and moving a little bit--even if it just pacing the room while listening to music and thinking about what I'm working on--that definitely does. Report
I have to take a break; otherwise I start stiffening up. Report
yes, I have a desk job, and I like to make sure I get up every hour or two just to walk down the hall or at least do a few stretches. It breaks up the day and makes me feel less tired at the end of it. Report
I am not surprised by the research findings, humans are animals and we need to move.
I can't wait til we have people operated technology- like pedal powered television or computers (just an idea folks!) Report
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