Stress. Perpetual treats in the break room. Birthday cake. Salty vending machine snacks. Hours spent sitting without a standing break. Does this sound like your workday? If so, you are certainly not alone.
The modern workplace is often the enemy of a heart healthy lifestyle. The good news? It doesn’t have to be. Columbia Bank is supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to raise awareness and put a stop to heart disease and stroke.
Here, we share five tips for small changes that can add up to big improvements in heart health.
Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day will cramp anyone’s style. (Not to mention their neck!) It is very important that you build movement into your day. Importantly, this doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon during your coffee break. Instead, experts taut the value of adding in short bursts of exercise throughout the day to give your body a boost.
Consider walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, parking your car at the far end of the lot, taking a walk during lunch, or even closing your office door and doing a quick five minute round of jumping jacks and sit-ups. It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you’re doing – anything at all is better than doing nothing and over time, these little bursts of movement can really add up.
Step Away from the Treats
Donuts at your 9 am meeting, followed by a salty treat from the vending machine as a 3 pm pick-me-up? Diet has a huge impact on your blood pressure and overall heart health. Reducing your portion size and your salt intake are key steps in your fight to be more heart healthy.
Birthdays, welcome parties, goodbye parties -- all of these have food at the centerpiece. And while it may be too much to ask your co-workers to ditch the donuts entirely, you do have control over what you do. A good rule of thumb the next time you find yourself reaching for that treat, is to ask yourself if you really want it or if you are eating just to eat. If it’s the latter, sing happy birthday with gusto and pass the plate on!
Making all of these changes at work on your own can be daunting, and even a bit lonely. Instead of going it alone, team up for maximum accountability. Enlist a buddy to walk the stairs with you and to brainstorm ways that you can make your workplace healthier. A great way to keep your motivation to move more going is to get involved with a walk in support of an organization. (The American Heart Association, for example, has walks and runs all over the country that support heart disease and stroke research and prevention.)
Take a Moment
Whether your work stress stems from conflict with coworkers or a tight deadline, stress can be bad news for your heart. Not only can stress contribute to high blood pressure, but it can lead you to engage in unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms.
While you are unlikely to be able to eliminate all sources of stress from your workday, how you deal with these stressful situations can impact how they impact you physically and emotionally. It’s important to take a few minutes to step away when the stress is mounting. The AHA recommends deep breathing, positive thinking, and committing to doing something enjoyable for at least 15 minutes a day as a way to curb stress.
Kick the Habit Smoking is one of the seven major factors of coronary heart disease. Smoking is also a risk factor for stroke. But, workplaces are also notoriously difficult places to quit smoking because employees who smoke associate smoking with breaks and socializing.
Quitting smoking is tough work, no doubt about it. How you’ll achieve this goal is a very personal project. Enlisting help even from your former smoking buddies (“don’t let me go outside with you!”) can be key to your success. Many resources are available here for those interested in beginning this journey.
Are you ready to implement all of these changes? One great thing about a system of small changes is that you don’t have to implement them all at once. Pick an area of your work life that you feel you can improve in (snacking, for example) and then try to improve your behaviors in that area. And take heart – your actions now will can yield big results down the road!
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