With so many hours spent at the workplace, sometimes finding any extra time spent to benefit your health can get put on the back burner.
However, there are things you can do at work to stay healthy and help prevent health problems such as diabetes, depression, and heart disease. Even if your workplace doesnít have a worksite wellness program, it is still possible to not to let your health fall to the wayside.
A full-time employee will usually eat at least one meal or snack within the workplace environment each day. Try your best to find time to plan meals and snacks to bring to work. Anytime you can prepare your own, it will be healthier and cheaper. Try to pack healthy items, such as a nice balance of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and lean proteins. Remember to watch your serving size as well.
It can be difficult to avoid hitting the vending machines or indulging in a tasty treat in the office, but it helps to have pre-portioned snacks on hand. Small bags of nuts or snack mix you make yourself, or a small bag of fruit like apples or grapes are a great option to have around. If you didnít bring anything and the vending machine is calling your name, try to pick a protein bar, granola bar, baked chips, or pretzels instead of a candy bar.
If you have a cafeteria at work, be aware of what options are available to you. Many cafeterias have a rating system to guide you to the healthier items. It's also important to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and to keep muscles healthy. Although they might be tasty, staying away from sugar filled beverages is another easy step to take. Cutting out one can of regular pop every day can help you lose 14 pounds in a year!
A second area of importance is physical activity. We all know that getting enough physical activity every day is critical to our health. However, many of us are in an office environment, in which we spend the majority of our day sitting in a chair behind a desk. It is important to encourage yourself and fellow employees to stay physically active throughout the workday.
If your worksite is multi-level, take the stairs. Use your lunch break for eating and exercising. Take half of your time to eat and use the other half to walk around the building or on a nearby path or sidewalk outside. You may even be able to make your desk a mini gym. If there's available space, desks and other office furniture can double as exercise equipment. During your breaks you can do simple activities to build your strength. Keep a small set of dumbbells or resistance bands under your desk that you can use while you're on the phone. Or try sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, which will help posture and keep the abdominal muscles tight.
Try to take breaks every hour or two to get up and move. Instead of sending an email, walk down to your coworker and deliver the message that way. Setting an alarm to remind yourself to get up and walk around is also a simple and effective strategy. And meetings don't always have to take place inside the office. If it's possible, try walking meetings.
One of the top things that get people into trouble as far as a downgrade in their health is their posture. Certain ergonomic changes can really make a difference, including: sitting close to the work station, keeping monitors at eye level, keeping the keyboard (or steering wheel) at a level that doesn't require too much reaching and isn't too high or low, sitting with legs flexed at a 90-degree angle with feet resting comfortably on the floor, and lifting objects with the legs and keep the object close to the body and toward the middle of the trunk.
You donít have to do all of these things at once. Make weekly goals, adding more of these suggestions as you can. You will find that you end the work week feeling much better!
Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.