There’s a general consensus among clinicians that being sedentary, particularly sitting for hours at a time during a typical work day, is bad for your health; it’s actually equivalent to smoking. Now, with more people working from home and being on far too many hours of video calls because of the pandemic, concern over the impact of a sedentary lifestyle has intensified. While it’s certainly easy to spend too much time sitting given our current circumstances, just a few small changes in your workday routine can make all the difference to your heart health. We talked with Liz Anthony, a heart health advocate and SVP Marketing of ViON, about how to make heart-healthy habits part of your work day.
“Working from home certainly keeps employees far safer in terms of reducing the spread of COVID-19, but when you work from home you lose a lot of daily mobility,” shared Liz Anthony, SVP of ViON. “There’s no more rushing to the Metro, taking a walk to get lunch, or just moving around the office to collaborate with colleagues. So, it’s important make a conscious effort to move – make sure to get up every hour. Set a timer if you need that reminder!”
“Understanding heart health – including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate – is important for everyone,” said Anthony. “I like to remind women especially during Heart Month to think about themselves and their health. It’s especially important for women to understand that warning signs present differently for them.” The American Heart Association has helpful information on many aspects of women’s heart health. “Women are so used to being exhausted from the challenges of working, parenting and managing the household that they overlook that fatigue, a stiff or sore neck, nausea or lightheadedness can all be signs of a heart attack,” Anthony explained. “Because of these ‘atypical’ symptoms, clinicians can also overlook the seriousness of these signs as well.”
Anthony, however, has made it a priority to find ways to make heart-healthy habits part of her work day. Over the past several years, following the loss of a friend to stroke and her own experience with a heart issue, Anthony educated herself about heart health and identified ways in which to incorporate heart-healthy habits into her daily routine, which she was happy to share with us, here.
- Remember to breathe deeply. Being aware of your breathing is key. Anthony pointed out that many people hold their breath while working or take shallow breaths instead of breathing deeply. “Try adding in a few mindful breathing moments in your work day,” added Anthony. “Breathing deeply for a few minutes before a conference call, or between switching tasks, will bring more oxygen into your body and release stress.”
- Take a walk. Even when you’re working at home, you don’t need to be tied to your desk every minute of the work day. “Just 20 to 30 minutes of walking a day, even if it’s broken up into smaller increments, can dramatically improve heart health,” explained Anthony. “Walking meetings are a fantastic way to get movement into your day.”
- Reimagine the refrigerator. “Being at home gives you an opportunity to rethink what you eat during the work day, especially when it comes to snacks and lunch. If you stock your home with heart-healthy goods, you’ll end up not missing the pastries, chips, and chocolate bars that are the staples of every office pantry.”
While the focus is on building heart-healthy habits in February during American Heart Month, Anthony hopes that organizations continue to support employees all year long. “The benefits that come from being heart healthy bring benefits in so many different areas, including improved productivity,” she concluded. “When eventually we can return to the office environment, keep those walking meetings as part of your schedule and then turn them into a team building exercise to support a good cause, like the Heart Walk. What’s good for your heart is also good for your family, your colleagues, your company, and your community.”