Once we clock in at work, it’s easy to focus simply on getting the job done. We want to be productive. We want to meet deadlines and goals. Even work in a few moments here and there to socialize with coworkers. But too often what falls by the wayside, forgotten and neglected, is our health.
For many of us, working means sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This sedentary presence leads employees down the path to poor cardiovascular health and weight gain. According to an article written by Dr. Edward Laskowski, a certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, sitting for too long repeatedly can create more significant health issues. This can give rise to metabolic syndrome, characterized by elevated cholesterol and an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, and fat around the waist.
Staring at computer screens all day can be hard on the eyes and cause headaches, while poor chair support and computer screen alignment can lead to stiff, aching muscles and lasting (but not irreversible) changes in posture and carriage – which, if left uncorrected, can cause joint problems further down the road.
Some workers forgo breaks and lunch in order to remain focused on their tasks. Haley Robinson, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta, describes how this causes the metabolism to slow down and go into survival mode, which makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight and prompts workers to overeat at the end of the workday.
At Laredo Emergency Room, we know firsthand that these workplace habits lead to significant health problems. We frequently treat patients for heart-related conditions that are directly related to an inactive lifestyle. We see people every day for complaints relating to back pain, muscle spasms caused by tension and poor posture, and much more. We, in the community, must understand that being at work does not preclude us from making healthy choices.
Here are nine tips on staying healthy at work:
1. When you have to sit, do it right. Start by making sure your chair is supportive to your back and that you can sit comfortably with your legs uncrossed.
2. When you use a computer, your neck should be straight. If you find yourself looking down, you should elevate your screen.
3. For those with hand and wrist issues, like carpal tunnel syndrome, look into keyboard and mouse options that can help with hand and wrist comfort.
4. Take frequent breaks. Stand up and stretch, and then walk for even just a few minutes once every thirty minutes.
5. Find ways to stay active as you work, like pacing around your workspace as you talk on the phone, or having coworkers join you for “working walks” instead of traditional conference-room meetings.
6. As you sit at your computer, you can work a variety of desk exercises into your day.
7. Trade your traditional chair for a balance ball chair, which can help with posture and strengthen your core.
8. Incorporate a raised desk that allows you to stand while you work. If your environment allows, you can even position your computer or work surface above a treadmill.
9. Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day, including snacks high in protein and fiber, to keep up your energy and help you maintain a healthy metabolism.
The great thing is that putting into place some of these healthy approaches to your workday is actually easy. We know that making them a habit is the hard part – but recruiting co-workers to join you in your quest can help. Most employers also love hearing that their staff is seeking ways to be healthier and are usually willing to help in any way they can.
Laredo Emergency Room is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.