Health Take-Away: Simple changes can promote health in the office

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It's no surprise that your office may not necessarily be the healthiest place. Often we are tempted by treats our colleagues bring in and the soda machine that's just around the corner. Many of us sit for hours at a time staring at a computer and when deadlines loom, we skip lunch breaks — adding to our stress. The typical office day can often be bad for our health — and the health of our business.

Signs of an unhealthy office may include low productivity, absenteeism, poor employee morale and rising insurance costs. More than 75 percent of all health-care spending can be traced to lifestyle choices, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, insufficient sleep, obesity and poor stress management. Since we spend most of our days at work, this is the optimal place to change those daily behaviors.

Staying healthy — both physically and mentally — requires awareness, resolve and daily commitment. It's actually fairly easy to design an effective wellness routine that works within your work day. By incorporating a few simple changes to the office routine, you will be healthier, get your work done and feel like you're at the top of your game. Here are some helpful tips:

• Plan your week — On Friday, schedule a break into every day of the following week to revitalize your mind. Adding a walk to your mid-day break gets the blood pumping and energizes you to finish the second half of the day.

• Pack your lunch — A hungry worker is a non-productive worker, and the same is true for the worker who forages for lunch from the vending machine. Pack a healthy lunch at home with lots of protein, fruits and veggies.

• Keep snacks in your office — Non-perishable items, like nuts, are a much better option than anything you'll find in the vending machine. You may need to pack them in snack-sized baggies to keep your portions in check.

• Switch coffee for water — Caffeine can leave you dehydrated, jittery and costs money. Buy a fun, water glass/bottle and fill it every hour to strive for 64 ounces of water a day.

• Sit for 60, move for 3 — Research links increased health risks to sitting six-plus hours a day. By moving for three minutes on an hourly basis, you will re-awaken your body and your mind.

• Clean your space — Germs lurk throughout the office. Take a few minutes every week to wipe down your desk, keyboard, mouse and phone. This is especially important if you eat at your desk.

• Use vacation days — Studies conclude that vacations are good for mental health. People work harder and are more focused when they return to work.

• Make an office mini gym — If you aren't able to leave your office at lunch, incorporate push-ups, sit-ups, triceps dips, squats, jump rope, yoga poses and anything else that gets you moving into your day.

• Organize — Keeping an organized desk can help maintain focus and radiate better energy throughout the day. But the real reason to file papers is the thousands of germs living on your desk. If you aren't putting away the old stuff, you'll never get to clean off the surface.

• Decompress — Take a daily "you" moment. Close the door, shake out your arms, roll your shoulders back and down, sit silently, breath in deeply to the count of 8 and exhale to the count of 8. Do this four times. You have just relaxed your body, mind and spirit, and enhanced your health.

Maureen L. Daniels, M Ed, is director of Wellness at Work at Berkshire Health Systems.


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