How to Build a Stronger Heart During the Work Day
By C.J. Hammond
Your heart is the pump that keeps you alive. With every beat, it moves nutrient- and oxygen-infused blood to your body’s cells, allowing you to perform the millions of operations every second that keep you functioning. The stronger your heart, the more efficiently that process takes place, and the healthier you will be. Making your heart stronger, though, doesn’t mean marathon sweat sessions at the gym. In this article, we reveal half a dozen ways to develop a stronger heart as you go about your work day.
Heart Muscle Health
Many people live a sedentary, stress-filled lifestyle that makes them susceptible to heart disease. Unless they take active steps to improve their heart muscle health, they will slide ever closer to becoming another heart disease statistic.
Fortunately, there are active steps that we can all take immediately to improve our lifestyle. While working out for a few hours per week is recommended, implementing some small workday changes to your routine can make a big difference. By taking on board heart-friendly habits, you will be able to:
- strengthen your heart,
- improve your cardiovascular efficiency,
- boost your energy levels,
- increase cardiovascular endurance, and
- improve your sleep quality.
How to Improve Blood Circulation at Work
Your busy work schedule probably limits the time you can devote to working on your cardiovascular health. Here are six things you can do each day to boost your heart health without eating into the boss’s time:
Have Lunch on-the-Go
If you’ve spent all morning cooped up inside the office, take advantage of your lunch break to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. If you’ve got a 30-minute break, take 5 minutes to eat your lunch on a park bench, then spend 15–20 minutes walking around the area. You may be fortunate enough to work by a scenic park, but even if you don’t, take in a few city blocks, walking at a moderate pace. Walking is one of the best cardio exercises that exist, so take full advantage of the opportunity to do it at work.
Ditch the Elevator
Walking upstairs is an excellent form of cardio exercise. That’s why millions of people spend hours each day simulating doing just that on specialized machines in commercial gyms. As well as strengthening your glutes (butt muscles), quadriceps, and calves, it gives your heart and lungs a good workout.
Take the stairs rather than using the lift wherever practicable. Of course, if you work on the 29th floor and you’re running late, it may not be a good idea. But maybe you could plan to get up a few minutes earlier and trek those 29 floors a couple of times per week as part of your morning routine. Doing so just twice per week will help you develop a stronger heart.
In addition to taking the stairs whenever you can, look for other ways to get in more physical activity during work time. If you’re going to the restroom, choose the one that is furthest from your workstation on your floor.
Take a Break on the Hour
Rather than slogging through a work block for three or four hours straight, break your workload down into 60-minute blocks. Set an alarm to remind you to do some movement every hour. If you’ve got a wearable fitness device, it’s probably got a move reminder function, so make use of it.
When your reminder goes off, stand up, do some dynamic stretching (move a muscle through its full range of movement so that you feel a full muscle contraction), go for a walk around your office space, and then perform 10–15 bodyweight squats slowly before returning to the job at hand.
Stress is one of the most insidious contributors to heart disease. For many people, much of that stress takes place at work. While there are going to be work stressors that you have no control over, there are others that you can minimize. Can you delegate responsibility and prioritize your time to ease pressure at work so you can spend more time with your family and get in some scheduled exercise?
Try to keep your work in perspective. It shouldn’t be your whole life. It’s also unlikely that the sky will fall down if you don’t hit that deadline. So is it really worth getting all stressed out about?
Make Healthy Food Choices at Work
Take an inventory of how you are currently eating at work. Are you regularly grabbing unhealthy on-the-go food choices? How often do you buy your lunch as opposed to bringing lunch? Do you bring your own snacks, or do you rely on the muffin guy at 10:30 each morning?
Having analyzed how you’re eating, start implementing some healthy heart changes. If you’re buying lunch five days a week, resolve to cut back to two days and bring your own lunch the other three days. Pack two pieces of fruit and some (unsalted) nuts to enjoy during your mid-morning and mid-afternoon break times.
When it comes to the makeup of your homemade lunches, build your lunch around a quality lean protein, supplemented by low glycemic index carbs and healthy fats. Remember that you don’t have to stick to sandwiches every day, either. Most workplaces have a microwave you can use to warm up a healthy midday meal.
Here’s a sample lunch menu that provides a heart-healthy balance of all three macronutrients:
- Chicken salad with Italian green beans, sweet corn, and yogurt dressing; coffee with reduced-fat milk
Promote Heart Health
The more people at work who buy into the heart-health message, the easier it will be for you to maintain your good habits. So, why not take the initiative and encourage your workmates to join you? For example, you could promote a Step Challenge based on doing so many steps per week, with a chart showing everyone’s progress. To make it more fun, you could build it up with daily announcements and mini prizes (healthy ones, of course).
Developing a stronger heart is more about little things done consistently than big things done sporadically. Take on board our healthy heart tips at work, and you’ll be able to nurture your body’s most important organ, setting yourself up for a healthier, happier future.
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