COMBAT NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF LONG WORK HOURS
Time spent at work in America is on the rise. As of September 2014, it was reported by Gallup work and education polls that the average work week is 47 hours. More time working means more time sitting, more time on the computer, more time spent stressing over projects and deadlines, and less control over when and what you eat.
This lifestyle poses a problem.
Sedentary behavior invokes risk of heart disease, exacerbates joint pain, shuts off the body’s fat burners, decreases blood flow, increases blood sugar, negatively inverts good versus bad cholesterol levels, and promotes obesity. Yikes! Aside from being sedentary, non-ergonomic desk situations and bad posture lend themselves to a sense of hypochondria due to compression on organs of the body. Stress is yet another facet that destroys one’s health by decreasing immunity, toying with mental health, increasing blood pressure, or causing headaches. To top it off, employees often struggle with healthy eating habits around a demanding work schedule. They find themselves forgetting to eat or eating at irregular times, giving into non-nutritious choices out of convenience, and neglecting to be mindful.
80% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of exercise they need, reports the CDC. If Americans were to get the recommended amount of exercise needed, the symptoms acquired throughout the work day would be minimized, if not demolished completely.
- What benefits are gained through exercise? Exercise is the closest thing to a magic pill that nature has. Exercise decreases risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise minimizes the symptoms of arthritis and aging. Exercise increases your metabolism and acts as a hunger suppressant. Exercise improves biometric numbers: lower LDL, higher HDL, and lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and controlled glucose and A1-C levels. Strength training can encourage better posture; in addition to stretching, muscle imbalances can be corrected, decreasing joint pain and discomfort from sitting. A combination of neurotransmitters, increased blood flow, and realignment helps with headaches, muscle cramps, and related menstrual pain. Exercise can also be therapeutic and fundamental in stress management.
- How does exercise make me a better employee? A healthy employee is a productive employee. Those who exercise have a strong immune system and tend to miss work less frequently due to illness. Employees who exercise are energized and better able to focus on the task in front of them. Those who exercise have better attitudes and are overall more happy; this in part because of feel good hormones released during exercise and because they are taking time for themselves throughout the day. Most employees who schedule in time for themselves have better time management skills and have characteristics of being motivated and driven.
- When is the best time to exercise? The benefits of exercise can be obtained whatever time of day you exercise. The best time to exercise is when you are most likely to completely dedicate yourself to a consistent routine. Exercising in the morning is a great way to wake up your brain and invigorate your body for the day’s work. Exercising at lunch is a great way to break up the work day, make the day go by faster, and stagger sitting time. Exercising after work acts as a great de-stressor and can help you separate home and work life. It is just as important to take small breaks throughout the work day as it is to set aside a block of time to exercise. Small breaks include stretching in your chair, going to the restroom, getting a drink, walking to the printer, and so forth. These breaks are imperative for getting the blood flowing and preventing bad posture. Even a simple stretch can prevent toxins from building up and every step adds up! When it comes to exercise, there is no limit on how minimal an action is to reap some sort of benefit; but the more, the better!
- How much exercise do I need? It is recommended that for general health one should exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week or 150 minutes moderate activity per week. In addition, at least 2 days of resistance training is recommended. You can also monitor your physical activity by the amount of steps you take a day. It is suggested to get at least 10,000 steps (~5 miles) per day. Different guidelines are suggested for weight loss, athletes, and special populations. Your health coach and/or physician can best advise you in your situation.
Exercise is too important to neglect.
Not only does exercise increase your health, confidence, and overall wellbeing, but it also makes you a better employee. Even if an extensive exercise plan is not plausible currently, remember that any little bit helps. Start increasing your mobility by doing small things, such as walking to a coworker’s desk to have a conversation rather than sending them an email. Consider getting a standing desk or sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair. Set a timer to stretch in your seat. And when you are ready, you can implement a full exercise routine before, during, or after work to reap all the benefits listed above. You can combat the deadly lifestyle encouraged by a busy work day. The answer is as simple as exercising. A little bit, or a lot, it will all help you become the best employee- and person- you can be.