Essential Steps to Staying Healthy at Work

Staying healthy while at home is hard enough but being conscious of your health while occupied at work can be even more challenging. Between meeting new people, sitting for long hours, and becoming too focused to take lunch, it’s easy to see how maintaining good health while at work can be a daunting task.

We talked to Jen Lumsden, Owner/Certified Personal Trainer at Robust Health who told us that the number 1 thing that makes a difference in your health at work, simply put, is moving.

Back Pain, Neck Pain, Tired Eyes - Where To Start?

Whether you work in an office, or talk to friends who do, chances are you’ve heard the complaints: Back pain, headaches, sore neck, maybe even wrists or hips that ache. According to Jen, the top way to reduce these aches and pains is to move. Set a timer for every 30 minutes on your phone or computer, and every time it goes off, move. If you can, get up and walk, maybe to the water cooler or washroom. If it’s not a good time to walk, try to reposition and check-in with your posture, stretch your arms and maybe rotate your shoulders. There are a few other things people can do to reduce pain and start being healthier, says Jen. Some of these things include:

  1. Get away from your desk and phone at lunch! Our eyes are strained by looking at screens and can be associated with eye pain and headaches.

  2. Ergonomic workstations – Consider a pillow for your back and make sure your screen and keyboard are at the right height for your body. Ask your employer to help you set up a workstation that works for you!

  3. Have an exercise program designed specifically for you! When you exercise, make sure you are helping to counteract habitual patterns created by sitting at a desk all day.  For example, your chest and shoulders are most likely tight due to having your arms forward all day, so strengthening your back muscles should become a focus area vs spending a lot of time on chest exercises.  It is important to strengthen all muscles and know how to create more optimal functioning of the entire body.

  4. Do effective stretches. We’ve all heard our parents say: “Sit up straight!” but did you listen? If you’ve ever held the phone between your ear and shoulder with your body all kinked up so you could still type, or realized your shoulders are basically touching your ears because you are so tense about an upcoming project, this one is for you. Make sure you have the proper equipment and do regular check-ins with yourself to check your posture. Relax your shoulders and straighten your back. A pillow might even help!

Is Sitting The New Smoking?

Sitting is the new smoking has become a popular adage in the office work culture. Jen agrees that the phrase has gotten people talking and has raised awareness to the issue but notes that a sedentary life and smoking have different health effects.

Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to increased cardiovascular issues, high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and even has some links to depression.
— Jennifer Lumsden

The other component to this is nutrition. The nutritional requirements for someone doing laborious work all day versus someone who sits at a desk are very different. Additionally, not moving makes us crave sugar and simple carbs, an easy pick-me up, although not the healthiest choices. Want to improve your eating habits and fend off those cravings? Jen suggests:

  1. Plan ahead and take healthy snacks with you.

  2. Get away from eating at your desk. When you are staring at a screen you are not conscious of how you are really feeling or if you are hungry. By paying attention to your food you are more aware of how much food you need before you feel full.

  3. Eat regularly. If you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast, then don’t eat again until 12:30pm, you’re already starving by the time you go for lunch. Pre-portion a few snacks and eat in between. If you can get up or turn away from your computer to pay attention to your snack for a minute, even better!

Why Should Employers Care?

While we know these habits and patterns are important for our own health, you should be concerned about it if you are a manager as well! Healthy employees are proven to be more productive, produce more creative ideas, and are more focused according to Jen. In addition, Jen points out that if employees feel good because of these practices, they are likely to take fewer sick days and require less time off for physio or massage (which could be another cost saving if this is covered by benefits). Healthy employees are also able to handle stress more effectively, says Jen.

Sometimes it can be challenging for employees to take these steps to be healthy, but employers can help and see the returns by doing so.

  1. Jen suggests the biggest way to help is to lead by example. If managers take a lunch break away from the computer, employees will see that it is okay and can do the same without guilt or shame. Create the environment. Take walking meetings (when possible), educate employees on nutrition and movement, and encourage it!

  2. Provide ergonomic workstations

  3. Use lunch time to move! Provide a space for yoga or stretching. If possible, do stretches with employees or encourage lunch time walks.

  4. If you want to really step it up, offer paid incentives. Company paid fitness classes, gym memberships, physio, and nutritional education remove barriers for employees to create a tailored plan for them, to create a healthy lifestyle.

  5. Finally, make it a consistent culture. A 3-month challenge is great, and can be fun, but a lifestyle of healthy practices all the time, is better.

Top 3 Tips

Finally, we asked Jen: With all of this advice and all the options, if we can only choose 3 things to do, what should we focus on? Jen suggested:

  1. Set the timer – move every 30 minutes, even if it is just a good stretch at your desk.

  2. Be conscious on your nutrition and hydration – pack healthy snacks, plan ahead, and drink water.

  3. Workout regularly and create an active lifestyle with your family.

Thank you, Jen, for providing all of this advice and the practical tips to stay healthy! If you are looking for more information you can find Jen at Robust Health.

Do you have any tips on staying healthy while at work? How do you create a balanced lifestyle?