Staying active throughout the day is more important than hitting the gym

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-22 18:17:16-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- While it's been long known that getting 30 minutes of exercise every day can lower your risk for disease, health experts are now saying staying active throughout the day is more important than getting that half hour at the gym.

A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests living a sedentary life puts people at an increased risk for things like cardiovascular issues, cancer and chronic illnesses.

Dr. Craig Alguire, a cardiologist with Spectrum Health, said the medical field often focuses on telling their patients to exercise, meaning they need to workout daily.

"But it's not just that 20 minutes or 150 [hours] per week," Dr. Alguire said. "It's really probably being active all day to reduce your risk."

It's an expectation that some might find difficult. Take dispatchers for instance; they're often sitting for up to 12 hours a day. Robyn Terpstra has been working for Life EMS Ambulance for 23 years. She said she's witnessed the effects prolonged sitting has had on her co-workers.

"A lot of complaints of knees, swollen feet. We had cardboard boxes sitting underneath our desks so we could put our feet up on them," Terpstra said. "A lot of walking around, stretching, standing up at desks and leaning to do our work."

That's not the case anymore. Three years ago, Life EMS Ambulance got new desks. They now have a motor that allows workers to adjust the height, so that they sit and stand as they please.

Keith Westhouse has worked as a dispatcher alongside Terpstra for nine years. Standing 7 feet tall, he couldn't even fit under his desk until the change. Still, just being able to sit and stand isn't always enough.

"If you get sore and it's not busy in here we'll go for a lap around the building," Westhouse said.

For people like Westhouse and Terpstra, who work all day while sitting, Dr. Alguire has some suggestions that can help increase activity.

"When there's a choice for an elevator, take the stairs, when there's a choice to park closer to work, park further," Dr. Alguire said. "Just make your whole day involved with short bits of activity throughout that day."