For many people, maintaining their health at work often falls by the wayside before more ‘productive’ habits. To them, working hard means long hours, hunched over a desk, eating anything you can get your hands on and chugging coffee to keep you buzzing. Taking just a few minutes throughout the day to focus on your health would do more for your productivity than all these things combined.
Ignoring your health at work each day is the fastest way to destroy your long-term health and productivity — without a healthy body, your ability to work and maintain a healthy mind soon falls apart too. Everything, including Your ONE thing, suffers when your health suffers.
Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can implement to make sure you’re taking care of your health at work, and setting yourself up for long-term success.
(Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do for your health, but around these parts we like to focus on the strategies that are going to give you the most bang for your buck, and these three are it.)
Between commuting to work, and then getting into things at our desks, most of us spend upwards of 8 hours every day sitting on our keisters. This slows circulation to the large muscles in the lower part of the body, and compromises posture and muscle activation, which add up to leave us feeling lethargic, stiff and distractible.
Research has found that for every 8 hours you spend sitting, you need to do 1 hour of physical activity to offset the negative effects on the body. It might sound like a lot, but it’s actually pretty simple to wedge chunks of movement into the day and start improving your health at work.
Get off the train or bus at a stop that’s a 10 minute walk from your office. Getting there and back will be 20 minutes of your total activity count. Go for a half-hour walk at lunch in the sunshine, and you’re up to 50 minutes. Then when you get home, take the dog for a quick stroll, or play with your kids to get up over the full hour.
Of course, if you’re looking to change something more significant about your health at work, you might do all that and hit the gym at the end of the day a few times each week, and that’s going to be even better for your long term health.
A few more quick tips on moving throughout the day:
- Get up from your desk every hour or so to get the blood moving again and to take a few deep breaths. When your breath is shallow, your body and brain get less oxygen, and you wear out faster.
- If you can, take a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon break to go outside. Walking around in fresh air for even just 5 minutes can have a hugely energizing effect on the body and mind. Plus it increases your Vitamin D intake, which your body synthesizes when exposed to sunlight and is responsible for many critical body functions like energy release, hormone regulation and mood.
- Each time you get up from your desk, stretch out any part of your body that feels stiff, including legs, hips, back, shoulders, neck and arms. Relax the face, and don’t forget the deep breaths!
Head Off The Caffeine Culprit
Oh coffee. How do we love thee, let me count the ways!
Ours is a culture obsessed with coffee. There’s an endless supply everywhere you go — from the filter pot that’s constantly ready in the corner of the office, to the 20 oz. Ventis at Starbucks, to the fancy ‘third wave’ cafes popping up everywhere with their potent espresso, caffeine is on tap. It’s so culturally normalized that we think nothing of downing multiple cups a day… even when it has stopped helping us feel more alert.
Multiple cups of coffee over the day can send you on an energy rollercoaster, and while the high points might feel good, the low points can kill your productivity and mood. Caffeine can also act as an irritant to the digestive system (which can leave you feeling nauseous, congested or dehydrated). You don’t need that kind of low-level distraction in your days.
Caffeine can also have a serious impact on the quality of your sleep.
You might think your sleep isn’t affected by your coffee habit, because you fall asleep quickly at night, but it takes six hours for half the caffeine in a single cup to be processed through the body. If you toss and turn or wake frequently (or at a regular time in the middle of the night), caffeine may be the culprit. This pattern leaves you tired, cranky and unnecessarily resigned to ‘being a bad sleeper’, as well as lopping off your productivity at the knees.
Now, far be it from us to tell you to ditch coffee altogether, but you do need to moderate your intake to make sure you’re not compromising your health at work. A large part of this process is just being mindful — paying attention to what your body is actually telling you.
Noticeable dips in energy are often cries for help from your body. You might be dehydrated, your circulation could be slowing too much, or you might just need to re-oxygenate your brain, so if you’re tired or lethargic, go through these three steps before reaching for more coffee:
- Drink 2 glasses of water
- Stand up and walk around for a few minutes
- Take 5 deep breaths
You can also set yourself a limit on the number of coffees you have each day. If you’re downing multiple pots right now, cut it back to one pot per day. If you’re having 3 or 4 lattes, bring that down to 1 or 2. Once you’ve got the volume under control, then you can focus on tackling what goes in your coffee, which we’ll jump into next.
Remember — Sugar Is Not Your Friend
Over the years, the amount of sugar the average American consumes has skyrocketed. On average, many of us are eating close to 100 grams of added sugar per day (compared to the American Heart Association’s recommendations of 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 38 grams per day for men).
Research from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse found that eating sugar can cause changes in the brain that are similar to the reactions caused by alcohol and cocaine. These new patterns in the brain can create real addiction, and the attending dependency and withdrawals. Not only that, but like caffeine, sugar can cause spikes and dips in energy that damage your productivity. Sugar also leads to weight gain, skin problems, and depleted focus… so if you’re looking to take care of your health at work, ditch the sugar as thoroughly as you can.
That means passing up the cakes and cookies and candy that go around. It means replacing your afternoon soda with sparkling water with some fruit in it. It means snacking on protein bars or veggie sticks with hummus instead of a chocolate bar.
And if that sounds difficult, think of it this way:
You can have the sugar, or you can achieve your ONE thing. You can’t have both, so which do you want more?
There will be days when the ol’ sugar habit gets the best of you, but you can get back on the horse to start working towards your health and goals at any time you choose.
It’s the same with movement and moderating your caffeine intake. Being mindful of your health at work will help you to get to your ONE thing much faster than if you force your body to keep up unsupported. Join our 66-Day Health and Wellness Challenge (by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page) to start taking care of your health more today.