After the workday is over, many of us run around to get the kids picked up, scramble to prepare something resembling dinner and then we’re off to school functions, extra curricular activities or volunteer meetings. Once we finally arrive home, it’s time to help the kids with their homework and get them ready for bed. You finally have some alone time to melt into the couch and watch some television or jump on the Internet for the last few remaining hours of the day. Everyone knows the importance of exercising, eating healthy, controlling stress and the other things that you are supposed to make time for in your hectic life. How can anyone fit all these into the same 24 hours that we are all given? The key to good health can be found right in your workplace. It all starts the minute you wake up in the morning. This is the crucial time when you need to realize that you have a choice in everything that happens to you today. You have the choice to wake up 10 minutes early so that you can prepare a healthy breakfast. You have the choice to pack a healthy lunch and snacks rather then relying on fast food and vending machines. You have a choice to spend every minute at work being as productive as possible. Once you realize that you have choices — making health a priority will be a little easier. Start your morning with a healthy breakfast and arrive at work looking for a parking spot a little further away then normal. Parking a little further will add an extra five minutes of walking every day. Do that five days a week for 50 weeks and you will have burned an additional 6,000 calories a year! Once at work use every opportunity to look for ways to move a little more. I’m amazed at how many people I see still using elevators. There are hundreds of ways to incorporate more activity into your workday — squeeze a tennis ball while sitting in meetings, do calf raises while talking on the phone or even do squats while waiting for the copy machine. The ideas are endless — you just need to realize that you have a choice as to whether or not you want to move more or not. Maximize your lunch hour! If you packed your lunch, it should only take you 10-15 minutes to actually eat, leaving plenty of time for a quick walk around the block or maybe even a quick workout if your company provides access to a gym. Most people spend their lunchtime driving to get fast food, standing in line at a cafeteria or sitting around sharing the latest office gossip. Why not do something more productive with this time. Always ask yourself, “How can I multitask and accomplish two things at once?” The Wellness Center at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital recently created a class called “Learn & Burn” — a 30-minute lunch hour class where participants are pedaling stationary bikes while participating in an educational learning session on a variety of topics. I guarantee that all meetings would be much shorter if we had to lift a dumbbell while sitting in our chair, or better yet, get rid of the chair all together and sit on a stability ball. Take advantage of everything that your workplace has to offer. Your company has a vested interest in keeping you well and if their insurance is privately funded, then you do as well. Health insurance premiums only go up because too many people are making too many claims. While you can’t avoid all trips to the hospital, many illnesses and diseases are the result of unhealthy lifestyles. Taking care of yourself is the single best way to avoid your healthcare premiums from going up. If you smoke, ask your employer about help with a cessation program. If you are overweight, ask your employer if they offer a discount to a local wellness/fitness center or if they are willing to bring a weight management program into the workplace. Look into your benefits package and see if your employer offers employee assistance programs, annual flu vaccinations and ergonomic assessments of your workstation or job task. By all means, if your employer holds an annual health fair — participate! I can’t make it any clearer — keeping you well is in the best interest of everyone!
Patrick Sustrich is the director of health and wellness for Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital in Charlotte.