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In principle, having a job is good for your health. It provides a sense of purpose, offers human contact, creates routine and gives you the remuneration that buys access to healthier lifestyles away from junk food and daytime TV.
Of course, not all working environments are beneficial. In many parts of the developing world, sweatshop conditions are still in place, workers are breathing in asbestos, passive smoking is the norm, temperatures are freezing cold or boiling hot, or the buildings themselves are unsafe. So when we talk about work being bad for us, let’s remember this is a first world problem.
However within this relatively privileged realm, work can still be detrimental to your health. Too many people are spending too much time in front of a screen, getting caught up in back-to-back meetings, eating lunch on the hop, if at all, sitting for hours at a desk, worrying about work at night, consuming too much caffeine, and winding down from the whole thing with a few drinks too many.
So here are 10 tips on how to keep healthy at work.
1 Stand up
Sitting in a chair isn’t natural and it causes the internal organs to sag. Core muscles will be worked more by standing. While standing meetings have waned, the latest fashion is for desks you stand at. Standing up burns calories too. If you can’t get round spending most of your day on your derriere, try flexing your ankles, squeezing your buttocks, tightening your stomach muscles, while you’re there. Imagine you’re on a long-haul flight, because that’s essentially what the modern workplace is like.
2 Get some fresh air
Instead of eating your sandwich at your desk, go outside, even if it’s wet. Fresh air gets the lungs working and the blood flowing. In the time you spend dithering about which task to do next, you could have taken a walk around the block.
3 Take the stairs, not the lift
If you’re not working in a skyscraper, you should use the staircase as an opportunity to burn some calories and exercise your joints. Exercise doesn’t have to take place only in a gym.
4 Look away now
When working on the computer, make sure you regularly look away from the screen and rest your eyes on the furthest point you can find. Change in focal length is as good as rest. And remember to blink. We blink less when in front of a screen, meaning the eyes dry up and get tired.
5 Turn your devices off in the evening and overnight
When you leave your devices on, they subtly remind you of work you should be doing, thus cutting into your necessary recovery time.
6 Go to sleep
How you sleep is vital to your health at work. More and more studies are reminding us of the value of sleep to our sanity and effectiveness as people – one went as far to suggest the working day should start at 10am. Even a short nap can make a difference, so find a place in the day where you can take 40 winks.
7 Be more French
The French take time to eat lunch, sometimes even over two hours. Eating slowly is good for you. It’s also better to have your main meal at lunch rather than dinner as it gives you more time to digest.
8 Drink water
Lots of offices are air-conditioned or overheated, and the result is dehydration. That ages us, causing our skin to wrinkle more quickly. We need water to lubricate our whole system. Keep a glass of water on your desk to sip at.
9 Cut down on caffeine
Coffee is dehydrating and because of its caffeine content, it can affect how we sleep. If you’re a coffee addict, consider switching to decaf. But do it over time. Going cold turkey can cause headaches.
10 Do tasks for other people
Health isn’t just about the body. It’s about a sense of wellbeing. We tend to feel best when we are altruistic. Whether it’s helping someone across the road during your lunch hour or taking on somebody else’s task at work, you’ll feel better as a result.
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