Studies have shown that good cardiovascular health requires not only regular exercise but avoidance of prolonged sitting and inactivity. For example, men spending long hours in front of a screen or behind the wheel on the expressway were more likely to die of heart disease even if they exercised.
A number of studies have demonstrated that moderate walking; gardening and house work have significant health benefits. Men who climbed at least 55 flights of stairs a week had a 33 percent lower death rate, according to a study of more than 10,000 Harvard graduates. Walking to work for 21 minutes or longer resulted in a 29 percent lower risk of hypertension for about 6,000 Japanese subjects.
Individuals can measure their activity with a pedometer. Set a goal of 10,000 steps a day; this can be accomplished through one long or several shorter walks.
Most would agree that those individuals that work out enthusiastically should continue what they’re doing. Regular, moderately vigorous physical activity may be the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. It regulates blood sugar, tones muscles, keeps blood vessels supple and helps control weigh. But it’s also important to keep moving at other times, even when you’re injured or taking the afternoon or weekend off.
Since you’ve already had a vigorous workout, these movements should be designed to relax and recover rather than stress the cardiovascular system. Take the stairs rather than the elevator if you wish. But if that means charging up four or five flights, you might want to reconsider and save your energy for tomorrow’s gym workout.
If you have a desk job, there are a few things you can do to avoid prolonged sitting. Walk around the room while you’re talking on the phone. Stroll down the hall to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email. Take frequent breaks to visit the copier, the water fountain and the toilet. Even standing from time to time helps.
If you’ve done aerobic work at the health club, you can use your down time at home doing stretches or yoga while watching TV. The muscles you use during your workout will appreciate the activity, and your heat will benefit by avoiding the health risks of too much sitting.