Let’s face it, slogging away from 9 to 5, climbing up that ever-higher corporate ladder doesn’t leave us in the best shape. More and more people at their most productive age (25 – 55 years) are working longer hours, slaving away well into the evenings and weekends to stay ahead.
So, how does this affect our health?
Recent research shows that employees who work longer hours are more likely to smoke and drink and do less exercise. Why? Less time and more stress means it’s easier to relax with a quick glass of wine than a gym session.
And when it comes to eating, it’s more convenient for those burning the midnight oil to grab a takeaway than to prepare a home-cooked meal.
Lack of sleep is another factor. Even an hour less sleep than the recommended seven to nine hours has an effect on our waistlines and overall health. How? In short, sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalances that end up disrupting your body’s metabolism.
And then, there’s the weather. When it’s cold, we’re less likely to feel fired up about getting our butts to gym.
Add all of this up and we’ve got a rather unhealthy lifestyle on our hands.
So, what can we do?
- Hit the gym first thing, that way it’s done, no matter what the day brings.
- In the habit of working late? Schedule a workout every Wednesday and Friday after work. That way you’re forced to leave at a ‘normal’ time on those days.
- Fact: exercise makes you feel good (thanks for that, endorphins!), and when you feel good, you’re more productive.
- Exercise helps you sleep better. Even a walk during lunch time counts.
- Fact: when you’re well rested, you can work smarter.
- Grab a book, magazine or puzzle and substitute just 30 minutes of your regular viewing pleasure. This will give you a chance to really switch off and re-boot. It’s so easy to get sucked into a TV show, one episode turns into five and the next thing you know, it’s 2am and you’ve had no sleep!
- Mondays and Fridays are toughest to get through, so skip the late movie the night before and recharge instead.
Diet and alcohol
- When you cook a nutritious meal, freeze some of it for a night that you don’t feel like cooking and are more tempted to order a pizza.
- If you drink, opt for light alcohol or add extra ice to reduce calories.
- Try to keep within the recommended daily limits (one unit for women and two for men). Exceeding them can cause weight gain, potential liver damage, disrupts sleep and makes you less alert the next day. And don’t save all your wine for the weekend, as binge drinking is even worse for your body!
Work and life
- Don’t let your lifestyle change in winter – keep up the exercise, or make sure that you don’t consume as many calories.
- Enjoy yourself during the week too. Don’t try cramming everything into your weekend.
- Keep an eye on your eating habits when you’re stressed out. Are you eating more than you should? Are you heading for the junk food? When you’re under stress, try feed yourself healthy foods and exercise regularly. We know, we know, but it certainly helps!
- A word on coffee… Did you know that just one cup of coffee can put your body on a caffeine rollercoaster? Caffeine triggers a stress response in your body that involves a surge in adrenal hormones and causes the classic fight-or-flight state. When your adrenal high wears off, you feel fatigued, irritabile or get a headache. You may reach for another cup of coffee, followed by another and another. If you constantly keep your body on a caffeine high, your body is thrown into a state of chronic stress. Not good! Try a healthy breakfast and a cup of ginseng tea for a boost instead.
Wondering where to begin? Why not identify one area per week and make it your mini-goal. Each week, congratulate yourself on your accomplishments and add a new goal.
To guide you in your quest for a healthier lifestyle in the concrete jungle, visit our Eat section on myva.co.za. You’ll find loads of quick and easy, not to mention full-of-flavour and totally satisfying recipes.