Staying active, boosting health

The adage that sitting at a desk for hours on end can be counter-productive has been given a further boost by a study carried out in America. It has long been claimed that being active, even simply by taking a break and walking around can help to reduce incidents of a range of health problems including diabetes and some forms of cancer.

This fresh study looked at the effects that sitting for long periods had on the femoral artery. The study observed that the way in which the femoral artery widened in response to blood flow deteriorated through long periods of sitting but that light walking breaks every hour significantly improved recovery of the artery.

This study, although limited in size, adds further weight to the argument for regular amounts of light exercise as opposed to sitting still all day and then hitting the gym. Whether the ‘standing desks’ which are growing in popularity are the answer is a debate for another time but from an employer, as well as a health practitioner point of view, the growing body of evidence would suggest that a sedentary work and home lifestyle is not a sensible course of action.

Of course, for the majority of health practitioners the opposite is true. The NHS Choices 10,000 steps a day challenge is scarcely a problem when someone is on their feet providing physiotherapy, osteopathy or other health treatments to patients. For them finding five minutes to sit down is the challenge and generally those five minutes are taken up in a rush to complete paperwork before the next patient knocks at the door.

If a sedentary lifestyle is not good for health, neither is one which is so packed with tasks that there is no time to rest. There is being active and being Active and if all of our activity is packed into continuous rushing around in response to must do tasks then being active can be counter productive. We all need time just to ‘stop and stare’, to rest our minds and bodies, to shake off what has gone before and prepare ourselves for the next activity. If we don’t give ourselves time then, rather like a student kitchen, the dirty cups of life pile up until it is difficult to see any clear way forward.

And when health practitioners naturally priorities patient treatment time, it is almost inevitable that administration creeps into leisure time. Taking simple steps to reduce the administrative burden can make a difference to stress levels. Tasks such as electronic filing of patient notes or sending out appointment reminders can easily be devolved to a virtual assistant service, as can dealing with routine phone calls and diary management.

Utilising the services of a virtual assistant not only removes the routine leaving the health practitioner free to concentrate on patient treatments, it also reduces the stress levels which can rise when a day is overfilled. Perhaps health practitioners need not worry about whether they are benefiting from regular exercise but in the interests of a balanced lifestyle, they also need some time to ‘sit and stare’.