Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of fitness and office-based work are three key reasons for this pandemic of ill health. Ironically as developing countries get richer it allows sections of populations to adopt these same habits and consequentially the levels of obesity are on the rise fastest in areas such as Latin America and North Africa.
Being overweight can cause secondary problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems and even cancer. What is less understood are the effects on your ability to function to full potential at work. Being overweight tends to lead to a negative cycle of a person doing less physical exercise. The consequence of this is a deprivation of wellbeing and the ability to tolerate stress.
Exercise releases tension in the muscles which aids the feeling of relaxation as well as raising levels of certain hormones such as endorphins which block pain, decrease appetite and create a feeling of euphoria (the exercise high). Low energy levels resulting from an unhealthy cardiovascular system can affect performance as well as reduce your self-esteem and overall approach to life. According to the American Heart Association, fitness also increases the amount of oxygen your brain receives, resulting in improved memory and mental acuity.
It is not hard to see therefore why being of normal weight and doing regular exercise can have a positive impact on your capacity to work – no matter how desk-bound you are. Today’s work environment is typically fast-paced and high pressure. Fitness won’t change that but it will increase your ability to cope better with such conditions.
That tight deadline that is stressing you out is contributing to your ill-health. Cortisol is a hormone that is part of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response to stress and when released it raises the blood sugar level (amongst other things) in preparation for ‘getting away’ from trouble. Of course physically running away (much as you’d often like to) is not an option to everyday stress in the office. This unused energy is re-stored, often around the abdominal organs. To compound this, cortisol release is also blamed for the craving for comfort food, leading to the on-boarding of more fats and sugars if we give in to temptation.
It is clear that we should reflect on our state of health, and where improvements can be made we should try to make changes to our lifestyle. Exercise and healthy eating are not optional, nor are they the preserve of the super-fit or young. Getting a good night’s sleep is a fundamental part of the overall picture and can have a powerful effect on the capacity to function well at work. Healthy people also tend to sleep better by the way – looks like a conspiracy!
Working long hours, taking work home with you and not making time for exercise, relaxation and sleep will eventually prove counter-productive and may lead to longer term health problems. Put in a more positive context; most of us probably haven’t yet seen our full capacity mentally or physically. A fitter, more energetic you will enjoy life outside the office much more and will find new levels of confidence, focus and persistence – and therefore success – within the work environment.
Andrew Low, who has 26 years in the Agri-business sector, is managing director of JE Invest and the owner of DiscussingBusiness.com.
Read another of Low’s articles: The ability to communicate through speech is one of the defining human characteristics and has helped to drive our development through millennia. In business clear communication is of course vitally important but for a myriad of reasons we seem to have lost (and are still losing) the required skills.
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