Americans are some of the hardest working people on the planet. We take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later than others in industrialized countries. That much is widely agreed upon, but the type of lifestyle that allows Americans to do that comes with a price. Below are some of the negative consequences a life of labor brings, as well as some easy hacks you can do to stay healthy even if you are working 40+ hours a week.
There’s no doubt jobs are an important part of life, but if they become the only priority, they can take a serious toll on the body and the mind. A study found that those who work more than 50 hours per week are willing to skimp on sleep and meals in favor of getting just a few more hours in. Plus, those who qualify as workaholics self-score themselves a higher depression score.
Another study found a connection between those who work a lot of hours and heart disease. Why? For many Americans, the more they work, the more they’re exposed to high-levels of stress, which leads not just to bad eating habits and lack of sleep as mentioned above, but also to high blood pressure.
Sit At Your Own Risk
For a good majority of the population, the workday contains hardly any movement. If you aren’t an office worker, you certainly know one. Why is sitting such a risky game?
Some research states that there may be a link between cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes and too much sitting. And even if you’re lucky enough to stand at work, you might not be in the clear. Standing for long periods of time can result in leg and back pain, and fatigue, and that’s not a recipe for optimal performance.
Hack Your Way To A Healthier You
While it would be great if we could all work at a company that is radically invested in the health of their employees, we all can make small changes that will have a big impact.
Walk It Out
Don’t let an hour go by without being active. Even just two minutes of walking every hour can help disrupt the negative consequences of sitting. So take that walk to the water fountain, or the copier, or even take a lap around the cubicles.
You don’t even have to leave your work space to break a sweat. Consider “deskercises.” Below are five examples of exercises that you can do throughout the day, right at your desk.
For your core and arms: Sit cross-legged in your chair with your feet resting on the cushion. Brace your hands on your chair handles. Suck in your stomach and raise yourself several inches above chair cushion by primarily relying on your abdominal muscles. Hold for 10-20 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat 5x.
For upper-body strength: Stand with your feet together at least a 3 feet away from your desk. With hands braced on desk edge, a shoulder-width apart, lower chest to desk edge, 20x.
For lower-body strength: While sitting in your chair, raise your leg in front of you and hold for 3 seconds. For an additional 3, raise as high as possible. Alternate legs for a total of 30 reps.
For flexibility: Sit tall in chair and stretch arms towards ceiling. Brace left hand on desk and grab back of chair with right hand while stwiting torso towards right. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and stretch hands towards ceiling and repeat on left side. Hold for 10 seconds.
For wrists and fingers: Place palms together in prayer position just below chin. While keeping your hands together and close to your torso, slowly lower them down towards waist until you feel the stretch throughout forearm. Hold for 15-30 seconds, repeat 2-4 times throughout day as needed.
Don’t Forget To Fuel
If your body doesn’t have the right fuel, it can only go so far without starting to show signs of wear and tear. Begin with giving yourself the good stuff: water. Drink it all day, so that your muscles and heart have what they need. And that afternoon crash? If you’re dehydrated, you’re also going to be unnecessarily tired.
In the same manner, it’s important not to skip meals. Skipping a mealtime will lead to a zapped energy supply, a lowered state of nutrition, and ultimately your body will go into survival mode. That survival mode is what will eventually spur you on to consume far more than is ideal. In the long-run, it hurts more than it helps. You might get a little more work squeezed in initially, but ultimately your brain’s quest for food will drive away your ability to think about anything else.
Make the most of your time away from work. When your shift ends during the week, or the weekend begins, take care of yourself. Continue making smart choices for your health that will propel you through a worthwhile workweek.
Additionally, don’t forget to take vacation. It’s the ultimate way to recharge, and it’s the secret to boosting your productivity when you are at work.
Ultimately, you have the ability to take control of the aspects of your environment that are less than ideal. With a game plan in place, an unhealthy atmosphere can transform into one where your health and well-being are as much a priority as your professional workload.