Posts Tagged ‘Work Environment’
When you grew up, your parents or teachers probably told you to sit and stand straight, instead of slouching your back and shoulders. They themselves may not have exactly known why that was important, it just seemed that way. But more recent science has found that they were actually right in many more ways than they imagined. As it turns out, good posture enhances physical fitness, helps reduce stress, and contributes to healthy aging.
That good posture plays a role in health and fitness should come as no surprise. Only when the body is properly aligned, the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles can function at their best. Sitting or standing hunched over for hours – as many of us do at work and other activities – can lead to chronic pain and permanently debilitating damage. By contrast, good posture can help prevent such wear and tear and maintain greater flexibility and strength.
Research suggests that good posture can also foster people’s psychological well-being. One study from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, found that the way people conducted themselves physically did indeed influence their self-esteem and how they were able to cope with stress and problem solving. As tests showed, sitting or standing upright helped participants feel more powerful and competent when facing a number of challenging tasks they were assigned to. In other words, bodily experiences can significantly affect cognitive and emotional states as well, the researchers concluded.
The issue becomes ever more pressing with age. A study from Japan discovered connections between good posture and the risk of future disability. Participants who sat, stood and walked even only slightly bent forward in their mid-life years developed greater physical limitations than their counterparts who generally maintained an upright posture. The differences became ever more pronounced as they got older, and were eventually quite significant in terms of their overall health status.
There is also a social dimension to the way we present ourselves physically, especially in our later years. As surveys have shown, old age is commonly associated with physical deterioration and visa versa. Many seniors feel left behind and isolated from society, in part because of actual physical (and perhaps mental) shortcomings, but also based on false assumptions that they no longer can keep up. However, while some slowing down may be an inevitable part of nature, there is no need to accept premature degeneration and decline.
And there is much that can be done to counteract those processes. For example, stretching, yoga and other exercises that promote flexibility can do wonders for an aging body. So can brisk walking, keeping a good stride, moving with ease and confidence – all of which are signs of good health and vitality. A positive attitude and outlook on life can also do some good, particularly when it shows on the outside.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”
It’s no secret that Americans spend too much time sitting. Long hours working in offices, commuting in cars, and watching TV or playing video games for relaxation render many of us near motionless for entire days. Health experts keep encouraging everyone to move more, but that is not easily done, considering our existing work and living environments. The consequences are plain to see, and they are among the greatest health concerns facing us today.
According to surveys conducted by CareerBuilder, the employment website, most industries see their employees gaining weight. Almost half of the workers interviewed for this latest study said they put on weight at their current job, with over 20 percent having gained 10 pounds and 9 percent having added 20 pounds or more.
Office workers seem to have the hardest time staying fit and trim. More than half in this category described themselves as overweight. Older employees, especially females, are more likely to have weight problems than their younger colleagues. Those in leadership positions are particularly vulnerable.
“Weight gain in the office is common and is a result of a variety of issues, including today’s economic stress and poor eating habits,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.
There is not just one culprit to point to. Half of those interviewed in the 2012 survey named having to sit at their desk for hours on end as the primary reason for becoming heavier. However, it’s not only the sedentary lifestyle but also poor diets at home, frequent snacking, eating out several times a week, overeating because of stress and anxiety, sleep deprivation, and lack of tools to better cope with all the pressure they’re experiencing that makes them prime candidates for unhealthy weight gain and a host of other health problems that come with it.
Employers realize the implications of a fatter and sicker workforce, not just for the workers themselves but their own bottom line. Company-sponsored wellness programs are now the rule rather than the exception, at least among larger firms. But still much more needs to be done.
Workers must receive better health education as well as opportunities to apply their knowledge. Some companies provide sports and workout facilities on site. Some improve their cafeteria menus and offer healthier choices. Not all can afford these, but every work place can foster a health-conducive climate in some ways, perhaps through seminars, counseling, or other incentives to build an environment where everyone can preserve and nurture their health and well-being. It’s one of the best investments they will ever make.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).