Want a healthy heart and trim waistline? Get up and move around. A new study reveals that frequent short breaks from sitting, even if they are only for a minute at a time, can accomplish both goals.

The study, published online on January 11 in the European Heart Journal, found that prolonged periods of sitting were linked with heart problems, inflammation, larger waist circumference, lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, higher levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation) and triglycerides (blood fats). Interestingly, the negative health effects of prolonged sitting still showed up in people who also spent time exercising vigorously at points during their day. Researchers studied data from 4,757 people aged 20 and over.

Yet, in the study, those who took more breaks from sitting during the day — up to 1,258 short breaks in one week — had smaller waists, up to two pants sizes smaller than those who took the fewest, as few as 99 breaks in one week. The group who had frequent breaks also had lower levels of C-reactive protein. The average length of a break from sitting was 4.12 minutes.

In a related study this week, researchers also found that people who spend more than two hours per day of leisure time watching television or sitting in front of a screen face double the risk of heart disease and higher risk of dying. Researchers said the effect was seen regardless of how much people exercised, indicating that how we choose to spend our free time away from work has a huge impact on our overall health.

While at home it’s easy enough to turn off the TV and get moving, but what about the desk-bound office worker? Dr. Genevieve Healy, a research fellow at The University of Queensland, Australia, who led the study, advises the following:

• Stand up to take phone calls
• Walk to see a colleague rather than phoning or emailing
• Have standing meetings or encourage regular breaks during meetings for people to stand up
• Go to a bathroom on a different level
• Centralize things such as garbage bins and printers so that you need to walk to them
• Take the stairs instead of the lift where possible

One way to get moving while at work: TrekDesk Treadmill Desk ©All rights reserved

Or you can try the TrekDesk Treadmill Desk and work out while you work. The TrekDesk is a desk that fits over an existing treadmill, and is being touted by Forbes magazine as a luxury worth the splurge. Price: US$479 (S$617). Another option: Walkstations by Steelcase range from US$3,500 and US$4,500 (around S$4,500 and S$5,800) — roughly double the price of a regular height-adjustable workstation. — AFP RELAXNEWS

To access the new study: http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/01/08/eurheartj.ehq451
A few sites offering tips on changing your sedentary lifestyle:
Build your own treadmill desk: