5 Bad Work Habits to Kick
Your habits during office hours can make or break your health regimen. Leave these bad nine-to-five habits behind to boost your well-being
Bad Work Habit #1: Sitting all day.
If you work a nine-to-five office job, chances are you spend a large portion of your day stationed at your desk.
That’s bad news for your health, especially if you sit on your commute and on the couch at night, too.
A recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine shows that people who sleep too much (more than nine hours a night), sit too much (more than seven hours a day) and aren’t physically active enough (less than 150 minutes a week) are four times more likely to die early than people who skip these bad habits.
The good news: there’s room to improve. Some simple ways to kick your sitting habit are to make walking, taking the stairs and regular exercise a part of your daily life. You may have to sit at your desk for most of the workday, but washroom breaks, stretch breaks and a long walk break at lunch can make all the difference. You can also make your commute healthier with these easy ideas.
Even better: Get a standing desk and reduce your risk of ‘sitting disease.’
Bad Work Habit #2: Having terrible posture.
When it’s inevitable that you’ll be sitting, at least make sure you’re sitting up straight.
Good spinal posture is essential if you want to maintain independence later in life, according to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. Basically, the worse shape your spinal column is in, the higher your chances are of requiring assistance for basic tasks (think: feeding and bathing yourself) in old age.
Not only does bad posture negatively affect you later in life, it can also make you feel less energetic from day-to-day. When researchers asked 110 university students to either walk in a slouched position or skip in an upright position, those who slouched reported low energy levels, while the skippers felt more energetic throughout the day. That’s worth sitting (or standing) up straight for.
Bad Work Habit #3: Wearing high heels.
Do you wear high heels to work? It’s time to consider switching to flats. Not only do heels interfere with those walk breaks and that good posture we recommended, they can also do a number on your body.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that long-term high heel use (40 hours per week for two or more years) compromises muscle efficiency in walking. That’s because heels can actually shorten the fibres of your calf muscles. Eek! Wearing heels every day may also increase the risk of strain injuries.
None of that sounds appealing, but let’s not forget the other downside: heels can be downright uncomfortable. Leave the heels at home on regular workdays, and bring ’em out for special occasions only.
Bad Work Habit #4: Eating lunch at your desk alone (friends on Facebook don’t count).
This one is a triple whammy. Not only are you sitting (we already talked about this, guys!) But you’re alone. We’ll get to the Facebook thing in a minute.
Feeling lonely has a huge impact on your health. A review of studies on loneliness shows that having more friends and good quality relationships boosts your mental health and improves your chances of living a long life. The opposite is also true. Loneliness negatively impacts mental and physical health and mortality rates.
Studies have also shown that time spent with friends, family and coworkers is more rewarding than alone time.
So we’ve established that sitting at your desk, and spending lunchtime alone is not the healthiest option. But when you add Facebook into the mix, things go downhill even more.
In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found that when someone uses Facebook, they feel worse. The more they continue to use Facebook over time, the more their life satisfaction declines.
It’s lunchtime. What should you do? Get up, grab a friend, and log off social media.
Bad Work Habit #5: Not taking breaks or getting outside.
Think you can’t take a break because you’re just too busy? Wrong. If you don’t take breaks, it’s even harder to focus.
Even a brief distraction from a task can dramatically improve your ability to focus on the same task for a longer period of time, according to a study published in the journal Cognition.
You can boost the health benefits of your break by going outside (yes, even in the winter).
A recent study shows that walking in nature actually changes your brain. Study participants who walked through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination (read: less negative self-talk) and had less neural activity in an area of the brain linked to mental illness. That is, in comparison to participants who walked through an urban area.
If you work in a city, your best bet is to find the closest green space-whether it’s a park, path, or just a patch of trees-and spend time in nature to reap some of its benefits.
There are more perks to nature, as well. Researchers have found that just gazing at a natural space can make you more productive.
Next time you’re considering setting up shop at your desk for lunch, convince yourself to go outside for just five minutes. You might return to your desk an hour later, refreshed, happy and ready to focus.
• 6 Surprising Ways Nature Boosts Your Health
• 5 Ways to Make Your Commute Healthier
• 7 Ways Work Friends Are Good For You