The importance of looking after your health when working long hours

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It’s no secret that a culture of sedentary, long working hours is harmful to our health. It can create something of a Catch-22 situation.

We want to stay healthy, but the length of our working days often means that we’re too tired or demotivated to make the necessary changes. Even though it can be challenging, it’s important that we keep our health in mind. Here are a few practical ways you can help improve your health and well-being while at work:

  • Opt for active commuting

Many of us drive or take public transport to work despite only living a few miles away from our workplace. It often feels easier to drive, and a short commute can give us a chance to gather our thoughts and get ready for the day ahead. However, by switching to walking or cycling, you can immediately do wonders for both your health and the planet.

The average person will burn between 450 to 750 calories for every hour cycled. This means a half-hour cycle ride twice a day can help you control your weight and get fit. It’s a straightforward way to build exercise into your daily schedule.

  • Get active during your lunch break

If your commute is just too long to cycle or walk, those who work long hours can be active during their work breaks instead. Some workplaces now have facilities that enable staff to work out or do some gentle activity during their lunch break. For those that do not, there may be space inside the office building or outside to get some steps in.

Taking regular breaks throughout your long working day is beneficial not just for your physical health but for your mental health too. Looking after your mental wellbeing is important for personal development, and one way to look after your mental health is by becoming more physically active and can release ‘feel good’ endorphins.

The NHS website also has some useful fitness tips for office workers that people with busy routines could incorporate into their routines such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, going for a walk during your lunch break, and standing up when talking on the telephone. After sitting at a desk for hours, taking some time to stretch, walk a bit, and get some fresh air, will do wonders for your health.

  • Limit your screen time

Long hours spent staring at a screen can be highly detrimental to our eyes. Too much time staring at tiny pixels can result in eye strain, while too much blue light can cause sleep problems and could increase the risk of macular degeneration. By lowering the computer brightness and ensuring you have good office lighting, you can reduce these risks.

Another useful technique is the 20-20-20 rule. This is where you look up from your screen every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This encourages your eyes to keep working while giving them a break from prolonged exposure to a screen.

If workers work long hours and are tired of wearing glasses everyday at their computer, laser eye surgery or lens surgery are some long-term eyesight correction options. Ultralase are top vision correction specialists in the UK who can help advise you on how you could improve your eyesight.

  • Choose healthier furniture

If you work in an office, you may not have much say over the choice of office furniture. If you work from home, however, you can opt for furniture that takes less of a toll on your body. Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to a variety of health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Choosing more ergonomic desk chairs can help improve your posture and be more comfortable when sitting for long hours.

Getting up to walk around every couple of hours can help, as too can standing desks. These allow you to spend at least some of your working day in a standing position, reducing the risks associated with lengthy periods of sitting while burning a few extra calories in the process.

  • Prepare a healthy lunch

Sometimes, when working long hours, lunch is sometimes taken on-the-go. If you’re buying food at work or purchasing food from outlets near the office, then the chances are you’re not making healthy choices. By preparing your lunch at home and taking it to work, you can make healthier choices that also save you money. Meal prepping in advance for the whole week can ensure that you make healthier choices when you’re running out of time throughout the week with your busy work schedule.

No matter whether you work for someone else or if you are self-employed, it can also be helpful to keep healthy snacks at your desk as well throughout the week. Rather than energy drinks and chocolate bars, dried and fresh fruit, nuts (but not too many), granola bars and yoghurt are all great options that sate your appetite and stop you from reaching for crisps or chocolate.

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