Our Favorite Health Tips for Working Professionals
Being healthy and being a working professional do not always seem like they would go hand in hand. It may seem impossible to keep a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a career. But with a bit of effort and a few tips it is completely possible to have a good balance between work and health. In this article we're sharing some of our favorite health tips for working professionals short on time.
Maintain Healthy Eating Habits by Planning Ahead
Most people think about maintaining a healthy diet, but either push it out of their brain, or do not make any changes until they see that they have gained a massive amount of weight.
Being healthy is not always about how we look or how “fat,” we may think we are. Even if you have a healthy weight and feel that you look in shape, you still may not be maintaining healthy eating habits. Skipping lunch can seem like a minor thing to an otherwise healthy working professional, but in reality it can be very bad for your body and metabolism.
Haley Robinson, a Piedmont clinical dietitian, explains that “when you skip a meal or go a long time without eating, your body goes into survival mode...This causes your cells and body to crave food which causes you to eat a lot.” So make sure to always take a break to eat your lunch, and if possible pack something healthy such as a salad with chicken, fish or lean protein like tofu.
Although skipping meals can be bad for the metabolism, snacking too much on unhealthy foods can be detrimental for not only weight loss, but for maintaining a healthy diet. Consistently putting unhealthy and processed foods into the body will make you feel sluggish and won’t allow your brain to work at its maximum capacity. If you must snack, make sure to have specific portions of healthy items such as snap peas, carrots and hummus, non-fat yogurt, jerky, small amounts of nuts, or cucumber and lemon.
For someone who is not a healthy eater already this might be a hard change, but eventually you will enjoy these snacks and feel much better throughout the day. Planning ahead and preparing your snacks ahead of time will become a rewarding part of your professional routine.
Drink Plenty of Water
What may seem so simple, is actually a daunting task for many. Drinking water is incredibly important for the human body as, on average, we are filled with 57-60% water!
8-10 glasses of water per day is the recommended intake for a normal adult to keep hydrated. Bringing a large water flask to work from home can be instrumental in staying healthy and hydrated. A good trick is to get a clear flask, and add lines with time markers. On a smaller bottle you might have marks for how much you need to be drinking every half hour ... on larger water bottles you might mark lines for how much water you need to consume each hour.
This lets you know that by 9am you should have consumed “X” amount of water and by 2pm a different amount. It gives you a plan to stay on track, and to maintain a hydrated and healthy body. It will also give your coworkers something to talk about.
Stay Active (even if you have to stay at your desk)
It can be hard to stay active when working 6-8 hours or more per day. Obviously it would be great if we could all make it to the gym at 6am, or leave work at 6pm and head straight to the gym, but this is not the reality for everyone.
One way to stay active while maintaining a professional life would be to use your commute as an exercise. This can mean either walking to work if it is less than 30 minutes, biking to work if its under 3-5 miles, or even splitting the commute with driving and biking or biking and public transport.
Additionally if there are a few flights of stairs at work you can opt to take the stairs up every day instead of an elevator. This wouldn’t necessarily work in a 30 story building, but if you have 7 flights this could be a great daily challenge if there are no other aspects of your life in which you are obtaining exercise.
Finally, if you're committed to your health and want to stay active while you work your desk job, consider investing in a standing desk (or ask your boss to buy you one) or design a more complete active workstation where you can change positions and stay moving during your workday.
Identify Your Personal Stress (and do something about it)
Stress and strains can be emotional, mental or physical. Being able to identify what is putting stress or strain on your body is so important to your overall health and well-being.
Emotional stresses can be due to co-worker relations which is something to keep in mind. If you are experiencing stress due to co-workers either ignore them, or tell a superior. No one should have to deal with this on a day to day basis.
Mental stress and strains can even be from your own pressure, or from a deadline quickly approaching. A great way to avoid this type of mental stress is to never procrastinate, always make sure to put everything with a reminder into your calendar, and then make sure to always follow through with assignments.
Physical strains are extremely common in the workplace. Eye strain occurs mainly when in front of a computer for long periods of time (that's pretty much everyone now). WebMD states that, "The distance to the screen from your eyes should be about an arms length away. You should also be able to comfortably read what's on your screen at that distance, without having to squint."
You can increase the font size on your computer if you are having trouble viewing from your arm’s length. Another issue that many people experience in the workplace is “TNS”, tension neck syndrome. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Tension neck syndrome occurs “when the neck and upper shoulders are held in a fixed, awkward position for long periods of time.” This occurs in many professionals who talk on the phone for long periods of time. Using a speakerphone or headset is a wonderful way to avoid this problem.
Related: Ergonomic Exercises for Office Workers
Take Regular Breaks Throughout the Workday
Eating at your desks, not taking bathroom breaks, and extremely long work days are all part of professional work culture today.
It's time to change that.
The concept of taking breaks in the workplace are not commonplace, and the absence of regular breaks is an obstruction to good health habits for the working professional. Many people believe that taking a break is a waste of time, but it can actually make us more productive when we return to our desk.
According to this article in Entrepreneur, “Not taking a break from work can make you mentally lethargic, and reduce your creativity. Make it a point to get away from your desk every now and again for a few minutes. The idea is to take a break; rejuvenate; and be more productive.”
Related: How to Counteract Sitting at Work All Day
Should You (could you) Cut the Caffeine?
There are many opinions on whether caffeine is good for us or bad. It can definitely increase productivity, but as with anything we must listen to our bodies and maintain a balance. Having 1-2 cups of coffee per day isn’t going to kill anyone, but for some of us it can make zero impact, and for others it can cause extreme anxiety.
Listening to your body and making sure that you aren’t overdoing it with caffeine is very important for health. Studies have shown that caffeine “increases cortisol and epinephrine at rest, and that levels of cortisol after caffeine consumption are similar to those experienced during an acute stress” (source).
So essentially drinking large amounts of coffee creates stressful conditions for your body. Coffee can also greatly affect your sleep depending on what time you drink it. This doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking coffee, but it means that you should be aware of how much caffeine you are putting into your body, and when you are drinking it.
It might be time to re-evaluate to see if cutting back on late-afternoon caffeine could lead to more restful sleep that improves how you feel the following day.
Have These Health Tips for Working Professionals Inspired You?
Unhealthy habits can be difficult to break and healthy habits can be hard to create. It can be even harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being a working professional because we often place more value on our job than our health.
The most important of these health tips for working professionals is a simple one: put a bit more effort and thought into your daily lifestyle and routines and that will create a natural environment for better health, putting you on the road to living your best life.
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