5 ways to combat the sedentary nature of radiology and improve your health

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 - Leather Chair

Radiologists spend a significant portion of their workday sitting down, exposing them to health risks such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. According to a new analysis published by the American Journal of Roentgenology, even individuals who are active outside of work are at risk of being affected negatively by radiology’s sedentary nature.

“The link between sedentary behavior and increased overall mortality risk is independent of physical activity levels,” wrote Jason C. Hoffmann, MD, department of radiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., and colleagues. “Thus, a substantial decrease in the portion of the day spent in sedentary behavior is crucial to addressing these health risks.”

So what are radiologists to do? Change how their entire profession operates? No, not exactly. Hoffman et al. suggested that radiologists research the concept of nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or “energy expended during normal activities of daily living.” Even fidgeting, they said, can increase an individual's metabolic rate and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

The authors also provided a helpful list of things radiologists can do to combat these risks and work toward living a longer, healthier life.

1. Stand up while at your workstation

Hoffman and colleagues did point out that standing too long can come with its own negative side effects. Instead, radiologists should alternate between working while seated and working while standing.

And when seated, they should always do their best to avoid sitting completely still.

“When seated, consider fidgeting to significantly increase NEAT energy utilization,” the authors wrote. “Simple activities including typing, using the computer mouse, and tapping your foot can increase NEAT energy substantially. These minor changes can be implemented initially during resident readouts or teaching sessions while standing and, if done correctly, should not distract others in the reading room.”

2. Move around the office when possible

The easiest way to combat sedentary behavior? Don’t practice sedentary behavior! As Hoffman and colleagues explained, getting up whenever possible can make a big difference. Take a walk during your lunch break, park far from your building, or simply speak to a few people each day face-to-face instead of shooting them yet another email.

“Taking a few breaks during the day can help to incorporate walking into your day, while also improving patient care,” the authors wrote. “For example, walking to discuss a complex case with an emergency department physician can improve communication and gather more pertinent history about a patient, while also improving your own health. Short breaks during the day can also have other benefits, such as decreased eye strain, staying focused, and relaxing the mind for a few minutes.”

3. Drink plenty of water

It’s common knowledge that drinking water is good for one’s health, yet not all radiologists drink enough of it on a daily basis. Drinking water can help with weight loss, the authors said, and eating water-rich foods can reduce caloric intake.

There’s also another benefit to drinking plenty of water: running out requires you to get up out of your seat to get a refill.

“Drink water out of a smaller container to force yourself to get up and walk to the water cooler more frequently, thus increasing your daily activity,” the authors wrote.

4. Get creative in the reading room

The authors suggest use of a treadmill or elliptical in the reading room. It’s quiet, they said, and does wonders for one’s NEAT energy utilization.

Hoffman and colleagues do acknowledge that previous studies have found that treadmill walking desks “may lead to a modest decrease in overall learning and typing outcomes.” Performances were still found to be “within an average or acceptable range,” however, and the authors recommend further studies to truly determine whether this is a larger problem.

5. Add simple exercises to your daily work routine

“Radiologists should be able to easily perform a few basic exercises at their workstation during their time at work,” the authors wrote. Examples include leg lifts, seated spinal twists, and neck rolls.

Previous Radiology Business coverage of the risks of sedentary behavior can be read here.