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Is Your Job Impacting Your Health? Here are 3 Ways to Combat Unhealthy Work Practices

Is Your Job Impacting Your Health? Here are 3 Ways to Combat Unhealthy Work Practices

Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can be both mentally and physically draining, and according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, more than two in five full-time workers say they have gained weight in their current job, with women reporting higher levels of weight gain than men.

Most blame their weight gain on sitting for the majority of the day, feeling too tired from work to exercise, and eating more because of stress. Sound familiar?

In my case, I went from being a fairly active student who exercised regularly and was on my feet a lot as a part-time waitress and bartender, to working full time as a writer, which meant I was suddenly spending eight hours or more each day just sitting at a desk.

Working from home also meant I no longer had to commute to work, and while this technically should have freed up more time in my schedule for exercise and healthy eating, the reality was a bit different.

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Long story short, it got to the point where I was so out of shape that even climbing short flights of stairs left me breathless and people who hadn’t seen me in a while were congratulating me on my pregnancy (I wasn’t expecting). It was at this point that I realized I was going to have to make some serious lifestyle changes.

The first and most important thing I had to acknowledge is that while it’s not impossible to stay physically fit when you have a desk job, it does mean you’ll have to work a lot harder at it than someone in a more physically demanding line of work.

So if you’re looking for effective ways to combat your less-than-healthy work habits, here are three important things you should start doing today.

1. Don’t ignore your stress

In addition to affecting your mental wellbeing, stress can have a huge impact on your physical health too, and research shows that it can contribute to gastrointestinal problems and heart disease, and may even slow your metabolism.

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Interestingly, the CareerBuilder survey found that workers who reported lower stress levels also reported less weight gain, so if you’re looking to lose weight, finding ways to manage your stress and achieve a better work-life balance should be your first step.

Start by figuring out what your triggers are and how you can avoid or better manage the resulting stress. For instance, you might feel most anxious when you have a hard deadline coming up, in which case you could try to break projects up into smaller chunks to avoid a last-minute rush.

Or, if your stress levels tend go up towards the end of the week, making an effort to get plenty of rest and exercise on days you know will be particularly stressful can help you cope.

2. Change your snacking habits

Even if you’re health conscious during mealtimes, it’s easy to pack on extra calories throughout the day without even really thinking about it, especially if you’re prone to stress-eating.

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This is not to say that snacking is bad, and in fact, research shows that the right type of snacking can help you control your appetite and avoid overeating later on. However, it is important to make conscious decisions about what, when, and where you eat.

First of all, try not to eat at your desk, as studies show that this type of mindless eating can cause us to overeat. Instead, make an effort to leave your desk and sit somewhere peaceful where you can focus on your food and enjoy the different flavors and textures without being distracted.

Secondly, if you know you’ll be snacking throughout the day, pack healthy snacks that will satisfy your cravings without filling you with empty calories and harmful chemicals.

High-protein snacks such as nuts along with raw fruits and vegetables are best for giving you an energy boost at work, but it’s best to portion out your snacks beforehand, as even healthy snacks will cause weight gain if you eat too much.

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3. Make exercise a priority

Aside from helping us stay physically fit, exercise can be a huge stress and anxiety reliever, so while you may not feel like you can fit exercise into your already-busy schedule, the truth is that if you want to avoid workplace burnout and stay healthy, you simply can’t afford not to exercise.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but when it comes to weight loss, consistency is extremely important. Fitting in just 20-30 minutes of high intensity interval training each morning before you go to work can actually be more effective than working out for two hours at a time once or twice a week.

What also helped for me was finding a form of exercise I actually enjoyed. Whether it’s running, yoga, body-weight training, dancing, swimming, or playing a sport like tennis or basketball, find a way to get moving that will be enjoyable rather than a chore.

Once you realize just how much of a difference exercise can make in your life, it will become just as important to you as eating or sleeping. You will make time for it, even if that means getting up a bit earlier, turning your commute into a workout, or fitting in some exercise during your lunch break.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

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Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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