Eight Ways to Stay Healthy at Work

October 16, 2018

People with full-time jobs work an average of 47 hours a week.

MADISONVILLE, KENTUCKY (OCT. 16, 2018) -- We Americans work — a lot.

People with full-time jobs work an average of 47 hours a week, with nearly 4 in 10 people saying they work 50 hours or more, according to a Gallup poll. That is why it’s crucial to make sure that you bring healthy routines and habits to work with you. William McClure, MD, at Baptist Health Madisonville Urgent Care, offered tips on how to take care of yourself at work and even inspire your colleagues to do the same.

Get up! Between working, commuting and Netflix, Americans can spend up to 12 hours a day sitting, which has been linked to poor health outcomes including obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you are at a desk job, Dr. McClure says to make sure you’re getting up once an hour to stretch and move a bit (setting a timer or using an app such as Stand Up! can help). Also try to build movement into your day.

“Just volunteering to do errands will give you the opportunity to move,” Dr. McClure says.

If your team uses electronic chat to communicate, try walking over to your co-worker’s cubicle instead to deliver the message the old-fashioned way. Even better: Take a 15-minute walk around the block to brainstorm ideas.

“After lunch you get tired and might feel hungry, but you know you really aren’t,” Dr. McClure says. “Make a plan in the morning for a 3 p.m. walk.”

Take breaks away from your workspace. Whatever you end up doing, make sure that your break time is just that: separation from your desk. “It can be tempting to sit there and get on your phone, but that makes for a really sedentary, monotonous day,” Dr. McClure says.

Sit right. Healthy posture is so important for your overall well-being. If you are having back and shoulder pain during the workday, you probably need to reevaluate the height of your chair or monitor or adjust your seating or typing position. Type “office ergonomics” into YouTube for a video demonstration. The basics are: Sit up straight, keep your feet flat and make sure hips and knees are in line with each other.

Thinking of trying a trendy standing desk? Dr. McClure says that they can encourage people to stretch and move more, and they help alleviate lower back pain, but that movement breaks are still important.

Stay hydrated. Bring a reusable water bottle and keep it filled all day (another excuse to get up!). “Not only will it help control your appetite, but the more hydrated you are, the more focused you will be,” Dr. McClure says. If you want an afternoon caffeine fix, try green tea rather than coffee. “People tend to add milk or sugar to coffee that makes it higher in calories, but they don’t feel the need with green tea,” he says.

Stock your desk and fridge with healthy options. On Monday, come to work with snack supplies to last all week. Dr. McClure recommends small packets of nuts for your desk drawer and fruit such as apples or blueberries. If you want a treat, try dark chocolate, which may help lower blood pressure and also contains disease-fighting antioxidants. (Individually wrapped squares will help you control portions.) Having your own stash of food also helps you forgo the latest brownie tray in the kitchen.

“If you indulge in healthy things a little more, and keep yourself full of water, it will help discourage temptations,” Dr. McClure says. “It might not be realistic to avoid them completely, but maybe allow yourself a small portion that you really enjoy.”

Take a mindfulness break. Have an empty conference room you can nab for 10 minutes? Taking deep breaths while resting in a quiet place with your eyes closed “reduces stress and helps you refocus,” says Dr. McClure, adding, “it doesn’t have to be full-blown meditation, even a few minutes will make a difference.”

The National Sleep Foundation reports that such a rest break (they call it “quiet wakefulness”) has been shown to boost mood and improve productivity by increasing mental clarity and motivation.

Have fun encouraging others. Dr. McClure suggests planning wellness activities with co-workers, such as a charity run or bike ride. “If you have a positive attitude, and you're promoting being healthy and happy, I think it rubs off, it's almost contagious,” he says.

Take care of yourself at home, too. On your days off, make sure you are continuing to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. “If you don't set up a good foundation, you're not going to feel well at work,” Dr. McClure says. “You're not going to want to take your afternoon walk if you ate a big plate of nachos the night before.”

Find other practical tips for daily living on the Baptist Health blog, share.baptisthealth.com.

To get a jump on wellness this winter, get your flu shot, available at Baptist Health Urgent Care, 1851 North Main St., Madisonville, Kentucky. The clinic is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday- Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. No appointment needed. Shots, which cost $40, without insurance, are now available. Most insurance does cover the cost of the flu shot.