How to keep up your physical wellbeing with the demands of modern working life

03/04/2017

Like the employer wants employees to perform at a high level, it is in the interest of each individual. We want to be good in what we are doing and achieve good results. Unfortunately, the modern business environment isn't always enabling us to do so. And more often, limitations in our physical wellbeing aren't either.

Increasing demands from employers and the modern lifestyle are putting more stress on employees and their wellbeing. As a result we are seeing low energy levels, lowered performance, more stress related sick-days, and lowered employee engagement.

In an optimal situation the employer takes a bigger responsibility of the wellbeing and development of employees, and provides resources and support to handle the challenges of modern work life. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to receive the help and support.

Good physical wellbeing enables you to perform at your highest potential and be energetic after work 

What to do?

By taking proactively care of your physical wellbeing and by reducing sitting hours, you can increase your energy levels, performance, alertness, creativity, and decision making. More importantly, you decrease the chances of getting modern lifestyle diseases (e.g. obesity, heart diseases, type II diabetes) significantly and have more energy outside the work. Here is how:

1. Add more physical activity into your day

So far it is quite clear that evolution is not keeping up with the requirements of sitting 9 hours staring at screens. It's been suggested that too much sitting might be even more dangerous for your health than smoking!

The importance of daily physical activity is becoming ever greater while we are doing less physical work. It provides the necessary movement for our body and reduces the pressure on our spine and blood vessels caused by sitting.  

Try following methods to add activity into your day:

  • Walking longer distance to and from work by parking your car on a further parking place
  • Taking/leaving the public transport a stop or two further/earlier + standing in the transport
  • Cycling to work (or part of the trip)
  • Taking stairs instead of an elevator
  • Walking or standing meetings
  • Walking or standing while you are on the phone
  • Standing desk
  • Lunch break walks
  • Standing up regularly to stretch
  • Force yourself with conscious choices to move more (e.g. printer in another room, switching work station between tasks)
  • Regular muscle movement (squats, push-ups etc.)
  • Use activity tracker or other technology to remind and motivate you move regularly
  • Ask your colleagues to take part to get support

By making physical activity a habit or a part of another habit, you have a higher probability of doing it regularly and gaining the benefits. Use your imagination how you could add activity into your usual working day habits.

2. Exercise regularly but not too often

Physical activity helps you to keep your body functioning normally but it isn't alone effective enough to improve your physical fitness. 

The health benefits of exercise are so significant, that you should make time for it no matter how busy you are, it will pay back. In addition to decreasing the risk of getting the modern lifestyle diseases, helping in weight control, preventing depression, better fitness also improves your performance and concentration, and gives you the strength to get through the day with higher energy. Try following methods:

  • 1-3 times of exercise per week is often enough in addition to your daily activity. If you do more, make sure you leave enough time for recovery and program easier weeks on your training plan
  • Do diverse range of exercise including low pace/long distance training, muscle and strength work, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and mobility and stability exercises
  • Vary exercises regularly to give your body new stimulus. Don't forget to give your body some easier weeks to recover
  • Concentrate mainly on activities you enjoy doing and plan other training to support you getting better in your favourite activity
  • Set goals and make plans how to get there
  • Start slowly and increase the amount of workouts and intensity step by step to avoid killing your motivation in the beginning
  • To make sure you are doing things correctly and efficiently, ask for help from a professional trainer

Remember exercise is also added stress for your body. Always balance the amount and intensity of exercise with other stressors in your life. For weight control exercise alone is not very efficient.

3. Eat nutrient rich food to energize your body

Bad diet choices have a direct impact on your health and performance, whereas healthy diet provides the necessary nutrients to keep your body healthy and your brain alert.

There is no one and only right diet for everyone but some guidelines are often helpful for most of us:

  • Try out different food timing and different portion sizes to find out how much, and how often, you should eat to keep your blood sugar level even, and which is the best rhythm to energize your day
  • Take care that you get enough energy during the workday
  • Have a snack in the late afternoon to avoid the monster hunger on the way home and at home, which often leads to bad choices and binge eating
  • If you eat often in a restaurant, remember the hidden calories you get with the tasty food. Pick the healthier choice from the list. If you know you will be having a large restaurant dinner, balance the days intake by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch
  • Balance your food intake to match the changes in your activity level
  • Eat most of the carbs (carbohydrates) around your exercise to improve performance and recovery
  • Try a breakfast with more protein and fat instead of classic carb breakfast
  • Make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals from nutrition rich foods. Include vegetables, berries and/or fruits into each meal
  • Drink water regularly during the day. Avoid sodas or other energy rich drinks
  • Prefer preparing food yourself to know what you are actually eating
  • Cook a larger dinner to have leftover for next days lunch
  • Be honest to yourself about your eating. Keep a food diary for some days to see the truth

Forget seasonal weight loss diet thinking and aim to find a balanced diet, which you can follow throughout your life. Instead of restricting yourself from something, use more allowing approach and aim to moderateness. Base your diet on foods you enjoy to eat and learn to make them nutrition rich and tasty.

If you are struggling to improve in activity, exercise and nutrition, even if you try your best, the reason might be in your nights.

4. Take care of your sleep and recovery

Sleep is the "hottest wellbeing topic of 2017" and for a reason. Lack of sleep has been connected to stress, weight gain, lifestyle diseases, attentiveness, depression, flu, heart diseases etc. Very often, good sleep is the defining factor for better wellbeing and performance, and it can change your life. Once sleep is at a good level, everything else will fall in place.

To recover from the stress the work is causing for our body and mind we must take care of proper recovery

To recover from the days stimulus body needs 7-9 hours of sleep regularly. Unfortunately it is not enough that you sleep well 2 nights/week on weekends. If you recognize yourself sleeping continuously less and claiming it has no impact on you, try for two weeks sleeping enough and see the difference in your health, energy, performance, decision making, and creativity. I bet you don't want to go back to old. It is all about choices and enough sleep should be very high on your priority list. 

To secure a good night sleep try following methods:

  • Reserve minimum 8 hours in bed to secure enough sleep
  • Do some light activity or meditation in the evening to relax your body and mind
  • Exercise improves sleep quality. Do it in the morning, during the day or after work but avoid late evening exercise (can prolong falling asleep)
  • Secure getting enough daylight during the day to signal your body its natural rhythm
  • Get an ergonomic bed and pillow
  • Minimize distractions in your bedroom and lower the room temperature
  • Keep a notebook next to bed to write stressing thoughts down, this way you remember to handle it in the morning and can let the thought go
  • Turn of electronic devices 2-3 hours before sleeping to avoid blue light
  • Darken lights in the evening
  • Eat a late, carb rich dinner

Caffeine has been shown to improve performance and memory when used moderately. If you use it continuously to make up bad sleep, you are on wrong track and facing even a bigger problem very soon. 

Even if your work is highly meaningful and enjoyable, it creates stress on your body and mind. 

Methods for adding recovery inside the working day:

  • Schedule breaks for your day to let your body and mind recover
  • Close your eyes for 30-60 seconds and take 10 deep breaths and concentrate only to the breathing movement to forget everything else
  • Do mindfulness or meditation practice. Even very short stopping and concentration into the moment can help
  • Take a 1-3 minute quiet moment before each meeting or task to forget the previous task and be ready for the next

Take action

Don't start next week or next month or when it's getting easier at work, the right time to start is now, there won't ever be "a better time". 

Need help in improving your fitness and wellbeing?


If you are insecure what you should do and would like to get clear instructions to start on a correct path right away, I am happy to help you. Contact me through petri.mikkonen@wellbc.de and I will advice you how to proceed. The first coaching session is for free!

- Petri