4 Easy Yet Scientifically Proven Ways to Boost Health in Your Workplace

Offices and other workplaces often get a bad rap for being unhealthy environments.

It could be their poor indoor air quality, greater exposure to viruses and bacteria, lack of opportunity for exercise, or even a lack of natural sunlight, which can lead to eye strain and eye discomfort, especially among us heavy computer users.

Fortunately, there are a number of scientifically-proven health habits that you can easily add into your workplace to make it happier and healthier!

 

First up:

  1. Keep Indoor Plants

 

In indoor environments at home and at work, building materials, paint, varnishes and other solvents, furniture, office equipment like computers and copy machines, flooring and fabrics of all kinds can all add unhealthy organic and chemical compounds to the air we breathe every day.

Researchers at NASA have been studying the ability of plants to clean the air and improve indoor air quality since the 1980s. They’ve discovered that plants are a valuable addition to buildings and other enclosed spaces like your home or office.

NASA’s research has proven that plants are able to remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen, as well as metabolize and sequester (render harmless) certain toxic chemicals.

Incredibly, in one study, NASA researchers found that certain houseplants removed up to 87% of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours.

Now naturally, different types of plants remove different types of pollutants from the air and can vary in how effective they are in doing so, but you can check out 50 types of clean air plants that are also ranked according to their effectiveness.

 

Put this health habit into practice:

NASA researchers recommend a minimum of one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space, so include one or more plants in your building’s lobby, lunch room, common areas and on your desk to help improve indoor air quality for you and your colleagues.

 

  1. Stay Hydrated

There is no doubt about it: water is vital to our health and well-being, comprising up to 55% of total body weight in the elderly and 75% of body weight in infants [source].

Stress, excessive workloads, commuting to and from the office, medical conditions like vomiting and diarrhea, higher altitudes, cold air and dry air (such as with office-wide air conditioning in summer or forced air heat in winter), and even breathing can all increase water loss from our bodies.

So, how much water do you need?

Well, it’s clear that our daily water need is a leading source of debate among researchers!

Conventional wisdom has always stated 8 x 8 oz. glasses of H20 (or about 1.9 L/daily). However, certain researchers argue for much higher intakes, even a minimum of 2.9 L/daily for men and 2.2 L/daily for women [source].

Keeping in mind that water intake should always vary based on your body weight, activity level, overall health and even weather conditions, it seems that most of the time, the average sedentary adult should be consuming a minimum of 1.5 litres per day [source].

 

Put this health habit into practice:

Drink enough plain water and avoid sugar-laden and caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics and can worsen dehydration.

Set a timer if you need to remind yourself or keep a pitcher of fresh water on your desk or nearby.

If you struggle to drink enough water in winter, you can stay hydrated by sipping on some favourite healthy herbal teas or another healthy hot drink. You could enjoy my Mulled Cranberry-Orange cocktail, or warm versions of my flavorful Citrus Goji Punch or Turmeric & Honey Chai Lattes.

 

  1. Explore Aromatherapy

Over the years, essential oils have found a myriad of uses beyond bath and beauty products, cosmetics and spa treatments, and new studies continue to be published regularly about the health benefits of essential oils and in particular, aromatherapy.

A study published in February 2015 involving hospital nurses and the inhalation of lavender essential oil was shown to significantly reduce workplace stress-related symptoms for 3-4 days. At the same time, reported stress symptoms actually increased in the control group.

In a review of 16 randomized control trials (RCTs) over a 20-year span, aromatherapy was also studied for its ability to reduce anxiety symptoms in participants experiencing them. Many of the studies included in the review documented positive results in reducing various symptoms of anxiety among the different study populations.

In a study published in April 2011, bergamot essential oil via an aromatherapy spray was studied for its ability to enhance the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” system in our body, among schoolteachers. The study also found that participants with moderate to high anxiety levels benefited more than those with milder levels of anxiety.

 

Put this health habit into practice:

Working in a closed-office environment? You may enjoy diffusing certain essential oils in your workspace.

Working in an open-office environment? You could carry a small bottle or even a tissue with a few drops of your favourite scent. Or, add a few drops of essential oil to a roller ball dispenser, top with carrier oil and dab this on your wrist (I like to apply it to the top side of my wrist so it doesn’t come into contact with my desk or keyboard).

Keep in mind that it’s important to take safety precautions when using essential oils in public spaces such as offices, especially since you may enjoy certain scents that others find unpleasant. One of my favourites is the smell of campfire (seriously, it exists!).

In addition, certain essential oils may not be suitable during pregnancy or for those with specific health conditions so consult a licenced/certified aromatherapist if you have any questions or concerns.

 

  1. Get Moving

There are countless studies exploring the physical, emotional and neurocognitive effects of exercise, and many recent studies have documented positive improvements as a result of incorporating exercise into your work day.

Exercise has been studied for its ability to reduce pain. In a study published in December 2014, soccer and Zumba were shown to reduce the duration and intensity of neck and shoulder pain among female hospital employees. Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of exercise for pain relief varied based on the length of time that participants engaged in these forms of exercise.

Exercise has also been studied for its ability to improve neurocognitive performance. A study published in October 2015 involving office-based employees showed that short physical exercise breaks improved neurocognitive performance, with boxing and biking demonstrating the greatest improvements.

Exercise has also been studied for its ability to improve our emotional state. One study published in December 2015 showed that a group-led walk at lunch (30 minutes three times a week for 10 weeks) increased relaxation, enthusiasm and nervousness at work among employees who were previously physically inactive.

Even something as simple as stretching can positively impact our health in the workplace. One study showed that a workplace stretching program increased flexibility and potentially prevented injuries caused by muscle strains. This workplace stretching program also had the surprising benefit of improving workers’ perceptions of their own physical conditioning, body attractiveness and overall self-worth. This is incredible!

 

Put this health habit into practice:

On your work break, go for a walk, bike or jog (shower permitting), or even just gently stretch out your tense and tired muscles to help keep your physical, emotional and neurocognitive health in tip-top condition.

 

What’s your favourite way to boost your health in your workplace?

Life is a plate… Eat up!

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