Living a healthy lifestyle isn't just about what you do before or after work. It's also about what you do during your workday to maintain your energy, focus, and optimal health.
By taking steps to take care of your health you can, in turn, encourage and support your colleagues to do the same. Together we create a culture at Vanderbilt of "Well-Being at Work".
Well-being at work starts with just three simple steps:
Get Active: Regular physical activity plays an essential role in good health
Eat Better: Good nutrition can lower the risk of many chronic diseases
Be Mindful: Mindfulness techniques can be used to enhance overall health and well-being
Get Active: Regular physical activity plays an essential role in good health. The CDC recommends that adults aim for a minimum of 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes most days of the week. If 30 minutes seems like a challenge, start with 10 minutes and gradually increase your time to 30 minutes.
One way to get active at work is to limit sitting. Even if you are regularly exercising, there are risks to sitting for long periods throughout the day. Sitting for an extended period of time is a significant health risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers*.
There are numerous benefits of taking time to stand, stretch, or be active for short periods of time during your work day. These benefits include reduced pressure on the lower body, increased energy, improved cognitive function, increased circulation, increase in calories burned, improved bone density, enhanced sleep, reduced stress, joint stiffness, muscle fatigue, soreness, and improving posture, energy level, balance, and blood flow.
Small actions that can have a big impact:
- Stand for 3 minutes for every 60 minutes of sitting.
- Take a walking meeting.
- Stand up along a back or side wall during meetings.
- Take a stretch break at your desk. Try the online desk stretch workout.
- Take the stairs.
- Park further away.
- Stand up while you talk on the phone.
- Calculate the difference standing makes by using the calorie-burn calculator.
Eat Better: Having good nutrition practices can lower the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and some cancers. It has a direct effect on obesity and high cholesterol.
Eating right at work can be done by planning ahead: make a grocery list and pack healthy foods in your lunch box, or choose healthy options when ordering foods.
Suggestions for eating at work:
- Use this guide "Food Tips for Healthy Meetings"
- If food is provided during meetings, use the healthy catering guide or provide fresh fruit and vegetables.
- If beverages are provided during a meeting, offer water instead of sugary beverages.
- Host a healthy potluck and invite everyone to bring a healthy dish and share recipes.
- Bring healthy and nutritious snacks to work such as fresh fruit (i.e., apples, bananas, oranges), almonds, raw veggies (i.e., celery with peanut butter, carrots, cucumber slices), air-popped popcorn (no butter, lightly salted), cranberries, and raisins. An assortment of snack combinations can offer a tasty and healthy variety to your workday snacking.
- Drink water instead of sugary beverages.
- Bring meals to work that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.
Be Mindful: Mindfulness is a simple technique that can be defined as: "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness techniques can be used to increase calmness and physical relaxation, improve psychological balance, cope with stress, or enhance overall health and well-being. Mindfulness is a skill you can learn and practice. The focus is on how your body is reacting to what is happening in the moment.
- Start meetings with a "mindful minute".
- Take a mindful minute before you turn on your computer or before you clock in.
- Schedule a weekly mindfulness meeting for your department.
- Practice a deep breathing technique for 1 minute.
- Practice walking while being mindful/aware of the muscles you're using, the noises, scents, and colors of your environment, the warm or cool temperature, and any other details of walking.
- Find and appreciate the good parts of your day.
- Express gratitude and appreciation to others around you.
How-to have a mindful minute: Depending on your environment you can learn to adapt your mindfulness practice. These guidelines can help facilitate a mindful practice.
- Create Quiet: if possible, minimize noise or distractions, close your eyes.
- Get Comfortable: you can sit, stand, walk, or lay down being mindful of body position/movement, smells, sounds, textures, and sights.
- Focus Your Attention: on your breath or on a mantra (chosen word or phrase).
- Open Attitude: let distractions or thoughts come and go without judging them.
*Owen, N., Bauman, A., & Brown, W. (2009). Too much sitting: a novel and important predictor of chronic disease risk? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(2), 81-83.
Health Plus Mindful Break Video