Squeezing a workout into a busy work day, whether it’s riding a bike to the office or taking a walk during lunch, counts toward the amount of physical activity that’s suggested to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease — but it may not be enough, finds a new study from the European Society of Cardiology.

Most adults spend about 60 percent of their waking hours in the workplace, Dr. Eleanor McIntyre from the Galway University Hospital in Ireland said in a press release. This is then a significant place where adults can accrue and count any physical activity toward the daily recommended amount, which is the equivalent to two hours and 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity each week. But for employees in a busy work place, such as a hospital, sedentary behavior is still prevalent.

McIntyre and her team examined the activity levels of 83 employees working at the Galway University Hospital. Each employee wore a pedometer to record their steps, in addition to taking the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Both measures allowed researchers to assess an employee’s energy expenditure.

According to the IPAQ, 53 percent of employees were logging high levels of activity during a typical work week, reaching “maximal health gains.” Twenty-nine percent of employees were logging moderate levels, which is the minimum activity requirement, while 18 percent were logging lower levels.

Yet, when compared to their pedometers, only six percent of the employees involved in the study were reaching the recommended daily goal of 10,000 steps; 30 percent were “described with concern as ‘sedentary,’” which amounts to walking less than 5,000 steps per day. These steps varied between occupations: Interns and nurses were more active than secretaries.

When all was said and done, McIntyre founded only half the employees met the national physical activity guidelines. While 47 percent of secretaries did meet the physical activity guidelines, they averaged fewer steps and more time spent sitting in a week. McIntyre says, "this is an important and often overlooked ambiguity between sedentary behavior and physical activity."

Logging 7,000 steps per day seems healthy, but it’s not enough to protect against cardiovascular disease if employees aren’t squeezing in additional activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the bus one or two stops early; and parking the car at the far end of the lot.

"Increasing demands on personal time can limit the amount of physical activity achieved outside of working hours, and the workplace remains an environment in which short bouts of exercise can result in modest health gains at the population level," McIntyre added.

Source: Recommended levels of activity rarely achieved in busy workplace environment. European Society of Cardiology. 2015.