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How to Work Smarter and Boost Your Health at the Same Time

Professionals everywhere are looking for the most effective tips to stay healthy at work. (Hint: the answer is not resigning.)

While the most common advice emphasizes building healthy habits, these tips aren’t one-size-fits-all and, without alternatives, professionals can give up on staying healthy or fail to thrive with busy schedules. The availability of alternatives to these widespread tips allows those that, for various reasons, have found difficulty in maintaining healthy habits to succeed.

When it comes to on-the-go health, nutrition is a big factor. The bottom line is to know in advance where your meals are coming from, whether it’s in a brown bag from your kitchen, or from the restaurant or grocery store across the street.

Preparing a week’s worth of meals on the weekends is one of the most commonly shared tips. It’s true, pre-planning and preparing meals gives you control over what’s being eaten and less to think about when weekdays get busy. However, meal preparation at the start of the week can be a challenge for some. So what are the alternatives?

Start by investigating the restaurants and shops around your office. This will give you a good idea of what healthy choices are nearby, so you won’t default to low-quality or fast food joints when you’re in a rush and hungry.

If you prefer to bring your lunch with you to work instead of buying on the go, shopping with a list is key. Plan recipes before shopping and use the list to avoid the snack aisle. Focus on the items necessary for meal prep, as well as healthy snacks. It’s easier to avoid packing candy if there is no junk food in the pantry when the cravings come. Saying no in the grocery store is always easier than saying no at home.

Regular physical activity is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, and something professionals are struggling to incorporate into their busy days. Research shows that regular physical activity can improve back pain, energy levels, break up hours of sitting and allow muscles and joints the movement they crave. How is it possible to fit activity into an already busy day?

Many like the idea of using breaks to climb stairs. This is a helpful tip for putting some cardio into a busy workday. But some people work through their breaks or have errands to run. Does that mean that their whole day should be sedentary? Absolutely not.

For those who can’t carve out large chunks of time for physical activity at work, consider combining work tasks with movement. Activate your core for 20 seconds every elevator ride. Take a walk around the office each time you send something to print. Set a computer reminder for a posture check every half hour. Small bouts of intentional movement may not be as intense as 15 minutes of cardio, but are effective at adding movement to your day.

Another way to get more movement into your routine is to add steps to your commute. Park farther away from your office or get off the bus a transit stop or two early and walk the extra distance.

Physical activity can also relieve stress, which is another common workplace concern. Effectively addressing stress is key to maintaining the drive and energy needed to continue working.

While, meditation is a great tool for managing mental pressures and recharging during the day, there are ways to minimize stress before it begins.

One of these is to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Sari Shaicovitch, a registered social worker, recommends setting realistic goals to start the day, and knowing what is within your grasp. Some tasks are stressful by nature, and so it’s helpful to decompress while you do them or after completing them.

You can also outline your goals for the day and prioritize the most stressful or important first. “Small tasks remaining on (the) end of the list will be less taxing,” said Shaicovitch. “Always make sure to forgive yourself for not getting it all completed.”

Staying healthy while working is an important goal among professionals. Rising rates of back and body pain, headaches, poor nutrition and stress can be intrusive to a busy day. Your doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist or other health-care practitioner can provide you with office-based exercises, further individualized tips, help you reduce or prevent pain or injury, and keep you in shape to be your best at work.

Written by Dr. Deborah Mechanic and published in the Canadian Jewish News

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