You clock out, make the long commute home, and drag yourself into your home. Dumping your work bag by the door and casually kicking off your shoes into the hall closet, you slump down into the nearest chair, completely worn out. You were only at work today, so why do you feel so tired? It’s because work may be having an effect on your health and wellness and you don’t even realize it.
Here at Axis Labs, we’re all about keeping our clients healthy and informed. We recognize that fitness doesn’t stop and start at the gym. Staying fit and healthy is a holistic approach and can be done at work too. So let’s explore how your job is affecting your health and what you can do about it.
How Work is Weighing On You
We’ve all felt a little burned out at the end of a hectic workday, but when you seem to be having more stressful days than good ones, it can start to take a toll on your health. Physical and emotional turmoil can make your life outside of work a chore and can keep you from pursuing the things you enjoy. So to have a better sense of how to address these issues, it’s always a good idea to understand how work is affecting you.
Work and Your Stress Levels
Does it ever seem like your friends and family are always griping about work? They’re not alone. The American Institute of Stress ran a study in 2006 that asked people what were their greatest sources of stress. The study found that for 46% of people, their workload was the major source of stress in their lives. But that’s just the work that they were doing. In fact, work consumed nearly all of the participants. 6% of the participants found that a lack of job security was their main stressor. Another 20% struggled to find a balance between their work and home lives.
That means that nearly 3/4s of the participants in the study stated that something to do with work was their main source of stress in their lives.
But where is all of this stress coming from? Studies have shown that Americans are working longer hours and putting in more effort while they’re there. The International Labor Organization made the argument that Americans are putting in almost an extra 40 hours worth of work every week. But outside of work, Americans are also more worried about their job security. They feel that if they aren’t working more hours and doing more in those hours, they might lose their jobs.
While this stress might be rewarded by a nice paycheck, what cost are Americans paying to get it?
The Effects of Work Stress On Your Health
It’s easy to dismiss the effects of stress. It’s only temporary, right? You’ll be less stressed once you finish this project, right? Well, only kind of. The fact is, stress can have short- and long-term effects on your well being.
Those who deal with chronic work-related stress often report feeling headaches or muscle tension or pain. Chest pain and upset stomachs are also a symptom of stress. Beyond the board room, you might experience issues in the bedroom as well, as heightened stress levels can disrupt your sleep patterns and even affect your sex drive.
While stress can manifest symptoms in your body, it can also get in your head. Stress displays in a variety of moods and emotions. You might feel anxious, overwhelmed, and unable to focus. Some feel restless, angry, or irritable. On the opposite end, others feel despondent, sad, or even depressed.
When your body and your mind don’t feel great, it reflects in how you act. You might find destructive ways to cope with your stress levels. Some eat too much or too little, while others turn to substances like drugs and alcohol. While some retreat from their family and friends, others lash out at them. All of these things can interrupt your normal lifestyle, and even add more stress to your life.
Work and Your Physical Health
The way we work has dramatically changed over the last century. Where our grandparents and even parents likely started in careers or jobs that had them up and moving all day, more and more American workers are spending more of their time in offices and cubicles. In subtle ways, our work can have a pronounced impact on our health.
Every now and then, a local news outlet or an alarmed friend on social media will share a story declaring sitting to be the "new cigarettes" in terms of its negative impact on your health. You might chuckle in derision as you kick back in your reclining work chair, but you might want to sit up straight and keep this in mind.
The reality is that we sit more than we realize. Living a sedentary lifestyle like this can have a lasting impact on our health. The Mayo Clinic found that individuals who "sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking." By spending more time seated, you’re at greater risk of weight gain, developing illnesses like type-2 diabetes, and contracting heart disease.
As companies begin to make their workspaces more attractive by offering things like free drink machines, beer taps, and a variety of free snacks, it’s easier than ever to graze your way through the workday. But before you pick up that free donut, consider this.
The saying that "you are what you eat" isn’t just a fun ditty for kids. It’s evident in numerous workplace health studies. One study found that employees who had a poor diet were nearly twice as likely to call in sick than their healthier coworkers.
While a healthy snack like fruits and vegetables can offer you a quick boost of energy when you need it, snacking on the wrong treats can actually make it harder for you to concentrate throughout the day. A 2011 study found that what you choose to eat can affect your working memory. This is what’s been called the "glucose memory facilitation effect," which is a really fancy way of saying you should offer your body healthy sugars if you want a healthy paycheck.
While more Americans are aware of the health effects of smoking, many still choose to take advantage of any smoke break they can get. For those who are stressed out at work, a quick smoke can feel like a welcome break from the routine. But stress from your job can actually prevent you from quitting smoking. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to find a less stressful job.
Sick Days Taken
You’re correct in assuming that sick days will improve your health. Taking advantage of sick leave if available, or even a sick day when you need it is a great way to care for your body. What’s concerning isn’t so much your choice, but the choice of your coworkers. The Office for National Statistics has noted a fairly remarkable decline in the percentage of employees taking sick days every year. In 1993, the average employee took 7.2 sick days annually. Compared to just 4.1 in 2017, this is a marked drop.
That means that more employees are coming into work, even if they are sick. Researchers suggest a variety of causes for this. It could go back to that stress about job security. It could be a result of low wages. It could be a symptom of larger workplace issues. Whatever it is, the health of your coworkers plays a role in your own health.
Don’t Panic: Exercise Can Help These Problems
The change from working the local iron mine to mining for Bitcoin means our relationship with physical activity has changed. Now, instead of being integrated into our day through our work, we have to do it separately.
If you need to make a change in your work life ala "The Office," more power to you. But if you’re not so daring, or don’t link your mental health solely to a red stapler, there’s good news. Exercise can help you address many of these health concerns, and even help to reverse some of their effects. In fact, "The Harvard Business Review" even suggests that employers should encourage their staff to exercise more. With regular exercise, employees report benefits like:
- Better concentration
- Improved memory
- Increased learning speed
- Enhanced focus
- Lower levels of stress
All of these things make you more productive and can help you establish a better work-life balance.
So how do you fit more exercise into your day when eight or more hours are devoted to the office? It’s actually easier than you think.
10 Easy Exercises to Do at Work
You can actually easily integrate a few exercises into your work day. While they probably won’t help you reach the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity every day, if you’re not moving at all during the work day, it’s a great start.
- Leg planks: Sit on the edge of your chair and extend one leg fully. Hold it parallel with the floor for 10 seconds. Repeat the pose with your other leg. Perform this five times for each leg.
- Shoulder raises: Raise your shoulders up toward your eyes, hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax. You can do both shoulders at the same time, or alternate. Practice this 5 times.
- Chest opener: Press your hands together behind your back, sit up tall and hold this pose for 10 seconds.
- Go for a walk: Even if it’s just around the cubicle farm once or twice, or getting up to talk to a coworker instead of emailing them, a short walk is a great form of exercise and breaks up the workday.
- Take the stairs: The elevator might be nice, but taking a flight or two of stairs a few times a day is an excellent way to get your heart pumping and to get some more exercise in.
- Calf raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand up on your tip-toes, hold the pose, then slowly yourself down. Repeat this for three sets of 15.
- Wall sits: With your back against the wall, bend your knees and lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
- Back twists: While seated, put your right arm behind your right hip. Twist to your right side and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise on the other side and do three sets.
- Desk chair core twist: While seated on a swivel chair, hold onto the desk in front of you. Using your core muscles only, twist and swivel the chair under you from side to side.
- Toe taps: In a rhythmic fashion, gently tap your toes under your desk. Doing so keeps your ankles from getting stiff and keeps blood flowing to your feet.
Reach Your Health and Wellness Goals With Axis Labs
While doing these exercises at work is a great way to get some movement in during the day, if you’re serious about taking care of yourself, you’ll want to hit the gym or workout on a regular basis. You can hit your fitness goals faster with the help of Axis Labs products. Lab tested, gym proven, our line up of pre-workout and amino recovery products are designed with your performance in mind. Order your sports nutrition products and supplements from Axis Labs today.
While you’re at it, check out our exclusive Facebook group, All Axis Pass. Not only will you find a great community of fitness enthusiasts, but you’ll also be the first to know about exclusive offers and new product releases!