The inevitable reality for a working adult in our modern world is that we spend the bulk of our life at work. This makes our workplace the fundamental setting for planning and implementing healthy lifestyle habits so that we are prepared to make the right choices even when we are consumed by the rigors of work.
Aside from dealing with the stress of any given normal workday, it is not at all uncommon that we also often have to grapple with deadlines or handle urgent and unpredictable complications that may trigger choices and reactions that could disrupt our diet, exercise plans, rest and resolutions. Challenges at work, however; can be dynamic and exciting instead of unsettling and disruptive if we arm ourselves with the key strategy of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and by actively keeping our health at an optimum level as both a priority and a pivotal element of a robust career.
Healthy lifestyle and habits are not just a strategic coping mechanism for being a warrior at work but also an indispensable armor and defense against most illnesses. Learning about and practicing preventive health is the best method to prevent disease from happening in the first place and can provide us with a long, healthy and happy life. The trick though is that these are knowledge, methods and choices that must be learned, planned, ingrained and executed ahead of time, when we are healthy.
Many factors contribute to a healthy lifestyle – from what we eat, to the amount of exercise and the quality of sleep we get. We must forge healthy habits even when it’s not convenient, and to do so we must believe that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important enough to warrant making sacrifices when needed. Yes, at times there will be challenges, and the journey can be demanding. It is hard to resist the instant-gratification siren call of our trigger habits, or to forego a comfy bed to get dressed and go out and exercise and unfortunately, there are no magic wands on the market to miraculously rid us of our quick-fix bad habits and turn us into a shining person with only virtuous habits. But that’s OK, because if we desire a high quality of life and good health, we can — and we absolutely owe it ourselves — to at the very least make the effort to make it happen. And practice makes perfect. So here’s the magic formula for building a healthy lifestyle: learn what is required and then practice, practice, practice! There are no other alternatives!
To start your own “good health” practices, here are some simple yet essential guidelines and tips to keep in mind:
What to Eat
Eat a proper, balanced diet at work to get the appropriate amount of nutrients and calories.
Cooking at home and packing up a quality healthy lunch and mid day snacks keeps you in charge of the ingredients that fuel your body and helps you perform at your best when at work.
The combination of lean or low-fat protein and fiber from whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables and/or fruit will provide you with the most satisfying and nutrient dense combination of foods.
For sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas, and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, lean meats or baked fish. You may also add the additional goodness of fresh toppings such as assorted greens, sprouts, sliced cucumbers, colourful capsicums, and tomatoes.
Another practical idea is that if you are cooking for dinner, make extra food so that you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch and enjoy it the next day.
Cut vegetables, nuts and/or dried fruits are great snacks to pre-pack to munch on and keep the mid-day hunger monster at bay.
Exercise at least 5 hours a week. This may sound like a lot at first, but considering that there are 168 hours in a week, devoting only 5 of those hours to fortify your mind, body and soul does not seem that impractical.
Here are some ideas for alternating activities to keep your body strong and to protect you from work injuries:
Aerobic activities to improve the health of your heart and lungs, increase stamina and help decrease body fat and improve circulation. Such activities may include walking, jogging, bicycling, climbing stairs, walking on a treadmill, or swimming. These types of activities help to raise your heart rate and increase your breathing for an extended period of time. Aerobic exercise also improves cardiovascular function and reduces blood pressure and have been known to boost one’s mood into the bargain.
Weight training is the only way to increase your metabolism so that you burn more calories even after you’ve stopped exercising because it increases your muscle mass and as such weight training is the best strategy to prevent weight gain as you age. Strength training, such as weight lifting, helps make bones stronger, improves balance and increases muscle strength. All of this helps prevent osteoporosis and lowers the risk of hip fractures from falls. Strength training has also been shown to lessen arthritis pain.
Stretching to ease movement, improve flexibility and prevent muscle strain and injury. Stretching also helps strengthen core muscles and promotes good posture which is especially useful when one is seated for many hours at a desk during a typical day at work. Yoga and Tai Chi are wonderful examples of flexibility training.
Rest & Sleep
Get a good night sleep, at least 7-8 hours a night. If you are among the many people who suffer from insomnia or poor sleep, keep the following tips in mind:
Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try not to engage in emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before going to bed.
Avoid napping during the day. It may disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercises should be taken either in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help relaxation and a restful night’s sleep.
Food can be disruptive right before sleep. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime.
Ensure you are getting enough of sunlight. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read. Needless to say, do not take your laptops or smart phones to bed with you either.
In conclusion, take the time to incorporate these key points gradually. Rome was not built in a day and you need not expect to change in a day as well. Set yourself up for success by setting small goals and slowly establishing good habits. It takes time, discipline and effort to build good habits but you will thank yourself later by being healthier, having more energy and productivity at work, and enjoying life to its fullest.
An Associate Trainer with d’Oz International, Dr. Afsoon Ghazvinian is a health and wellness educator. Her passion for aligning the awareness of “prevention rather than treatment” with “nutrition and healthy lifestyles” has led to her involvement in many community services and activities in Singapore. To engage Dr. Afsoon, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.d-oz.com for more information.