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Five Tips: Stay Healthy While Working Full Time

By Elise Itano, MD
Physiatry at Boulder Medical Center

In today’s world, it isn’t always easy to reach your health and fitness goals when you’ve got to work all day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time employed Americans spend on average 8-1/2 hours a day at work (42.5 hours per week). Factor in an average commute time of 50 minutes (round trip) and you arrive at roughly nine hours of sitting, five days a week for most working citizens. However, in order to promote a healthy workplace lifestyle, the goal is to sit less and move more. So, how do we get the job done while simultaneously promoting physical activity?  Fortunately, there are many creative and simple ways to implement a healthy lifestyle on the job.

Step to it!

One of the easiest ways to incorporate movement is to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Parking or getting off at the bus stop as far away from your workplace as time allows will add to your steps for the day. Additionally, allowing yourself a break every hour to stretch or take a brisk walk is a great way to clear your mind and improve circulation.

Breathe it in

If and when you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work, take time out to focus on your breathing. I recommend deep breathing exercises (4 seconds in, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds out, 4 seconds hold, as many times as you can) to bring stress levels down a notch.

Stand tall

Try and reduce optional sitting as much as possible in your life. For those who work at a desk, a standing desk with an anti-fatigue mat is a great option.  Use a foot stool, slant board or a foot rail to alternate standing positions. If you must sit, try to do so with a neutral spine and move at least 2 minutes for every 30 minutes you are sitting.

Keep an eye on screen time

workplace-health-boulder-medical-centerIt is important to take breaks from looking at screens. Try implementing the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Avoid using electronics after dark (2-3 hours before bed), and use blue light blocking glasses to suppress the release of melatonin. Also, keeping an eye on work lunches to ensure they are packed with nutrition is something to be mindful of during a busy work day.

Small changes…big difference

Providing yourself with the adequate tools to maintain health can make a big difference to your life and not just at work. For example, neck movement, wrist rolling, foam rolling, hip openers, shoulder/chest openers are fantastic ways to decompress at the end of the day and can be done while watching your favorite show. Investing in a wearable fitness tracker is a great way to make sure you’re moving enough and many are customizable, alerting you when to stand after sitting for too long. These seemingly small changes can improve well-being and health in individuals and make a big difference over time.

World Health Organization global recommendations

  • Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity;
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes’ duration;
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensive activity;
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.

About Dr. Elise Itano
Physiatry | Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R)
Boulder Medical Center

 Dr. Elise Itano specializes in diagnosing and treating spine and musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Using non-operative methods, Dr. Itano works with her patients to relieve their pain, restore functional ability, and enhance or retain function and independence. Her ultimate goal is to help her patients improve their quality of life. She is passionate about encouraging her patients to work toward achieving optimal health in all aspects of their lives.

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