The latest Medibank Better Health Index revealed our mental health is deteriorating and the number of Australians who are overweight and obese is continuing to rise.
Poor physical and mental health not only puts us at greater risk of illness and chronic health conditions, it also impairs our ability to concentrate and perform at work. In fact, unhealthy workers are nearly three times less productive than healthy workers1.
With so many of us working long hours and leading busy lives, it can be hard to find the time to exercise after work, or prepare a healthy meal – but it’s important to prioritise your health.
So with more than half of our waking hours spent at work, how can we use this time to better our health?
Here is my advice for simple ways you have improve your health and wellbeing – and boost your performance and productivity – while at work.
Start the day with breakfast. Eating breakfast is vital for workplace success. A healthy breakfast helps you think clearer and improves your concentration. It also gives you more sustained energy throughout the work day.
Bring your own lunch and snacks to work too. This helps you control the type of food you eat, and means you have one less decision to make during your work day. If you find it hard to find time to make your own healthy lunch, aim to at least bring snacks such as fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Your daily commute could be doing harm to your health. If you have a short enough commute to tackle it on foot, why not kill two birds with one stone and hit the pavement or ride a bike. For everyone else, your commute might not be doing your body any favours, but you can certainly use the time to better your mind. Set personal goals, or practice mindfulness with the help of a guided meditation app. Or you could just try to relax your mind by chilling out with a good book or podcast.
Many workplaces offer incentives to help keep their staff healthy – from free flu vaccinations, standing desks, and corporate sport activities and social groups, and even discounted private health cover. Find out what type of health benefits your employer offers and use them.
If you work in an office, it’s important to take regular breaks away from a screen. Aim for five minutes every hour. It’s also important to sit at an appropriate distance from the computer screen – about an arm’s length and adjust your screen settings to where your eyes feel most comfortable. Have a check with your optometrist if you experience any eye problems when using computers.
It’s important to take your lunch break when you can. Having a break during the day is beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing, and it’s also a good opportunity to get active. So instead of eating at your desk or sitting down in the kitchen area for your whole lunchbreak, go outside for a walk and enjoy the benefits of exposing yourself to natural light.
Don’t have time for a proper lunch break? Remind yourself to take short breaks regularly to stretch and get up and move. You don’t have to go for long – just make sure you take a 5-10 minute break a couple of times throughout the day. Not only will it get you moving, it will help clear your head, so you go back to work feeling a bit more refreshed. A recent study found that replacing sedentary behaviour with walking or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity significantly reduced the mortality risk for adults aged 45 and above.
Feeling your concentration levels start to drop in the afternoon? Resist the temptation for coffee or a sugary snack. One of the reasons you might be feeling a dip in mood and energy levels is dehydration, making it hard to focus on the task at hand. Stay hydrated with water. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle around with you and sip at it throughout the day. You can also try herbal tea or water flavoured with lemon or lime.
It’s much easier to fit in your gym session when you can go straight to work, or straight from work. Check out what gyms are near your workplace – GymBetter gives you cheap and convenient access to a wide network of gyms around Australia on a pay-as-you-go basis, making it so easy to get active.
Finding ways to unwind can help reduce workplace stress and enable a more relaxed way to engage and be present at home. From after work catch ups with friends, to hitting the gym or attending a sport session, to listening to music, meditation or reading a book to switch off, good mental health can also ensure optimal physical health.
Finally, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Whilst fatigue and daytime sleepiness are common symptoms of sleep deprivation, many people aren’t aware of the adverse effects a lack of sleep can have on their overall health, brain and body function. Poor sleeping patterns can lead to a less productive work day, poor food choices and increase your stress levels. Fatigue be also be a serious health and safety risk, especially if you are responsible for operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. Do your health and waistline a favour and aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
How does your job impact your health? Read more here