Take a break: Your heart deserves it

Back when I was chained to a desk and confined to a cube, I perfected a nifty technique for eluding supervisory detection during frequent absences from my work space. I’d get a hot cup of coffee from the company canteen, place it next to an open folder on my desk, drape a sports coat over the back of my chair and slip away. People would walk by, see the steaming coffee, the active folder, the jacket and assume I was elsewhere in the building, soon to return from a vital work-related mission. Meanwhile, I’d be walking around the building, seeing what was in bloom, catching some fresh air.

At the time, I thought I was pulling a fast one (in addition to saving my sanity). But according to a study published in the Jan. 12 online edition of the European Heart Journal, I was actually SAVING MY LIFE!

Sorry for the all-caps drama. But for someone whose butt was glued to a chair from 8 to 5, those short breaks, it turns out, were staving off The Big One down the line.

The study arose out of scientific curiosity about the fact that people in developed countries tend to spend more than half their day seated and the fact that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of premature death in the United States and Europe. Could there by a relationship, researchers wondered? Four years (2003-2006) and 4,800 male and female study participants later, the study concluded that indeed there was. Further, the study found that even if you religiously hit the gym before or after work, but don’t get up from your desk during the workday, you still had a higher risk for heart trouble down the line.

“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,” Genevieve N. Healy, of the Cancer Prevention Research Centre at in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Herston, Australia, told the online MedlinePlus. “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. These changes can be readily incorporated into the person’s day-to-day life. Stand up, move more, more often, could be used as a slogan to help get this message across.”

So the next time Mr. Dithers whines that he couldn’t find you at your desk, look him square in the eye and ask why he wants to see you keel over from a heart attack at your desk. Or, if you really want to appeal to his base instincts, ask why he wants to see you under the care of a heart specialist, on pricey subscription drugs, running up the tab on the company health plan.

Enjoy your new health breaks.

For details ion the study, go here.

Photo: Run! RUN! (Or at least get up once an hour and take a five-minute stretch.)

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