Work Hard. Work Healthy.

By: Sophie Greenberg – February 8, 2018


As professionals in a field that promotes the latest innovations and best practices, we’re always reading up on health trends. But we aren’t necessarily applying all of the healthy lifestyle habits we endorse. Colleagues and friends, it’s time we start to walk the walk, maybe even literally.The journey may begin by simply standing-up. At work, we tend to sit for extended periods to get the job done. But an international group of experts recommends those of us with desk jobs stand or walk for at least two hours every workday.1 Here are some things that can happen if you don’t take the time to get up and move:

•Heart disease: When seated for extended periods of time, muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. A higher risk of type 2 diabetes has also been associated with long periods of sitting.2

•Poor posture: Long-term slouching over a desk can lead to poor posture, according to the American Chiropractic Association.3 For people who do not exercise regularly, a change in posture—for instance with a standing desk or frequent walking breaks—may reduce the risk of future low back pain.4

•Poor circulation in legs: Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs, leading to swollen ankles and varicose veins.5

•Disk damage: People who sit more are at a greater risk for herniated lumbar disks.6

Stress, while admittedly almost unavoidable, can lead to health issues including over-or under-eating, sleep problems, mood swings, increased anxiety and a multitude of other problems. Luckily, stress can be managed with a few simple tactics:

•Exercise: Virtually any form of exercise, from yoga to bootcamp, can relieve stress. In the wise words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”7 Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by happier co-workers? As a bonus, employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week were 15 percent more likely to have higher job performance!7

•Leave work at work: It may not be possible ALL of the time, but it’s important to set clear boundaries between work and home.

•Sleep: We all have our favorite shows to binge watch, but save that for a rainy Sunday. Lack of sleep increases levels of stress. Be sure to avoid using personal electronic devices, such as tablet and phones, before bedtime. The blue light emitted by these devices decreases levels of melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep.7

Finally, there’s food: the good, the bad, and the I-can’t-believe-I-just-ate-that-1,000-calorie-brownie bad. Food has a direct impact on cognition and performance, two traits clearly needed for success.7 Instead of reaching for another handful of chips, try implementing these changes to clean up your workday diet:

•Glucose level drops: Don’t let your sugar levels get too low throughout the day. To keep your energy level high, which generally contributes to better job performance, consider light snacking throughout the day. Highs and lows in blood sugar are bad for both productivity and overall brain health.8

•Healthy snacks: If you have a communal snack drawer, ensure healthy options are available. If you bring your own snacks, nuts, vegetables and fruits are great options. In fact, one study found that participants who incorporated more fruits and vegetables into their diets were happier, more engaged and more creative. Researchers have a couple of theories behind this, one of which is fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients that promote the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital in the experience of motivation, curiosity and engagement.9

As Dolly Parton once said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Work is important, but your health, both mental and physical, should always remain a top priority.

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References:

1 Buckley J, Hedge A, et al. The sedentary office: an expert statement on the growing case for change towards better health and productivity. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015; 49: 1353.

2 Ford E, Casperson C. Sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease: a review of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2012; 41: 1338–1353.

3 American Chiropractic Association. Tips to Maintain Good Posture. Available at https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment. Accessed December 2017.

4 Agarwal S, Steinmaus C, Harris-Adamson C . Sit-Stand Workstations and Impact on Low Back Discomfort: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2017; 1-15.

5 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Explore Varicose Veins. Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vv. Accessed November 2017.

6 Billy, G. G., Lemieux, S. K., & Chow, M. X. Lumbar Disc Changes Associated with Prolonged Sitting. PM & R: The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation. 2014; 6(9): 790-795.

7 Mayo Clinic. Stress management. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469b. Accessed November 2017.

8 Gailliot M, Baumeister R. The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 2007; 11: 303-327.

9 Connor TS, et al. On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. British Journal of Health Psychology. 2015; 413-427.