It’s World Heart Day on September 27 and with the theme being “Work with Heart”, HEMA VIJAY suggests how one can incorporate work-outs into office hours

Come to think of it, as adults, we spend over 50 per cent of our lifetime in the office. No wonder then, most of us seldom find the time to squeeze in a visit to the gym, or go for a swim, or play a vigorous outdoor game.

A way out of this sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle would be to incorporate pre-emptive health care into office hours. That’s why, this year, World Heart Day (September 27) is on the theme “Work with Heart.”

Consider this. Heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.2 million lives each year.

Avoid risks

But, according to the World Heart Foundation, at least 80 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke can be avoided if the main risk factors — tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity — are controlled. And we can control these factors, even at the work place.

“We need to either workout or engage in vigorous physical activity for at least 40 minutes four times a day,” recommends consultant cardiologist Dr. Joy M. Thomas. “The workout should step up your heart rate and cause you to sweat,” adds Dr. Easwaran Nathan, consultant cardiologist. If you don’t find the time, at least break for 10-minute sessions whenever possible.

Exercise caution

“But while it’s important to exercise, you also need to exercise caution,” warns Dr. Thomas. Get your physician to evaluate your heart condition and physical fitness before taking up any vigorous sport such as football, sprinting or jogging or working out. And if you have a family history of early cardiac illness or sudden cardiac death, even the kids need to be evaluated for the risk factors.

The adults too need to evaluate risks they might carry for heart disease such as blood pressure, diabetes, high triglyceride levels, waist-to-hip ratio, body mass index, smoking, sedentary life and obesity.

FITNESS AND PRODUCTIVITY

The two key issues to a healthy heart are fitness and proper diet, and this can be woven into office hours, with intelligent planning. For physical activity, all that is needed is space for a treadmill and a table tennis table. And the office cafeteria could introduce a subsidised menu that is heart healthy.

If you are wondering whether productivity would suffer as a result of such a health drive, relax. Employees who engage in regular physical activity have been found to derive greater work satisfaction, have increased concentration levels and mental alertness, are less likely to fall sick and take leave, and even enjoy better rapport with colleagues, making for a cutting-edge corporate team. “Physical activity not only burns away excess calories, but also keeps blood vessels from getting clogged. It stimulates endorphins that relax mind and body and, therefore, stress,” says Dr. R. Prem Sekar, Interventional Cardiologist.

Some corporate houses have recognised the importance of better health of their employees if they are to achieve core business objectives. However, in smaller businesses or where people are self-employed, it is the individual who has to take action.

KEEPING FIT IN THE OFFICE

Be physically active. Take the stairs, not the lift. Take a short walk, post lunch. Take short ‘work-out’ breaks. Get off the bus/auto a couple of stops earlier, and walk the rest of the way.

Take up a sport/fitness activity, at least during the weekend.

Discuss your fitness activity with colleagues, and help others who want to pursue an activity too.

Organise office-bonding activities around sports such as athletics, a football match or a Sunday cycling event.

Say ‘No’ to tobacco.

Relax by doing deep breathing exercises or pranayama. The risk of coronary heart disease will be halved within a year and eventually be eliminated altogether.

A ’HEARTY’ DIET

Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and sprouted grams which are rich in vitamins and minerals. Don’t overcook food, as it destroys nutrients.

Eat plenty of salads.

If you are a non-vegetarian, avoid red meat (lamb beef pork). Settle for lean meat like chicken and fish.

Avoid oil rich in saturated fatty acids such as palm oil and coconut oil and vanaspathi, margarine, butter and ghee. Opt for oil rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids such as olive, corn, soya bean, sunflower or gingelly oil. Go for a mixture of oils.

Limit your salt intake to two teaspoons a day. Stay off processed foods, as they have high salt content.

Maintain a healthy weight. This, along with lowered salt intake, will help lower blood pressure.