When was the last time you did anything that remotely resembled a sport (wrestling with aunties on the MRT doesn’t count), or consumed a weekday lunch that you knew for a fact did not contain MSG?
The truth is, most of us (except those people who compete in triathlons and post their training progress on Facebook) know what we should do to improve our health. But we never manage to do it.
And the culprit is: WORK.
After all, it’s because of long working hours that we don’t have time to exercise or get enough sleep, that we need ten beers to calm ourselves down at the end of an overly long day. Right?
Enough excuses. Here are three ways we sacrifice our health for our jobs, and what we can do to make things better.
Sitting down all day
A 2016 NUS study has shown that office workers spend almost 75% of their working hours sitting at their desks for an average of 7 hours each day, which could raise the risk of diabetes.
Lots of evidence has arisen to show that sitting can be deadly. This is particularly pertinent due to the long hours worked in Singapore, which equates to more sitting.
Short of applying for a job as a fitness trainer, construction worker or backup dancer, what can a busy office worker do to eliminate sitting and fit more exercise into an already busy day?
Well, there is one timeslot in our day when most of us have free time—lunchtime. For those who don’t want or can’t afford to have exercise eat into their spare time, it makes sense to use lunch hour to get moving.
Even if your office does not have shower facilities, there’s lots you can do without getting drenched in sweat. Go for a brisk walk around the CBD, do yoga, use home gym equipment like resistance bands, climb stairs. If you have access to a shower at work you can go for a run.
Exercising during lunch hour also helps you waste less time procrastinating and wondering if you really want to work out today, which tends to happen when you push your workout to the end of the day. Your time at lunch hour is so limited that you just get up, change into your workout gear and rush out the office without a second thought.
What about food? Even if you don’t pack your own lunch, you’ll spend less time queuing at local eateries anyway, since the crowd tapers off towards the end of lunch hour.
I always feel bad for those people who get Stomped for falling asleep in the priority seats on the MRT. Given the fact that 44% of Singaporeans lack sleep on weekdays according to a 2017 SingHealth Polyclinics study and that we’re amongst the world’s most sleep deprived countries, you can’t really blame them.
While mobile phones are often blamed for sleep deprivation, long hours at work definitely have something to do with it. If you get home from work at 10pm, sure, you could go to bed instantly, but that would mean your life would consist of nothing but working and sleeping.
So how do we get more sleep when we work long hours? First of all, if there is any way at all you can cut down on the time you spend at work, do so.
Many people spend long hours at work, but if you observe them doing the work day they are actually spending half their time walking around the office, chatting with colleagues or surfing the Internet. Don’t do that.
In addition, don’t contribute to the ridiculous culture of sitting around at the office till your boss goes home even when you’ve finished your work. Actively search for an employer who is more concerned about actual performance at work than face-time.
Finally, for many people, not being able to sleep early enough is a discipline and time management issue. Schedule your after-work time more rigorously and make plans so you feel you are using it meaningfully.
So you might for instance schedule a Monday night like this: 7pm: arrange to have dinner with a friend, 10pm: reach home and watch one episode of Rick and Morty, 10:30pm: Shower, 11pm: meditation and then sleep. Notice that you managed to fit a whole lot of activity into your day and still go to bed at 11pm.
On the other hand, if you don’t bother planning your post-work time, it could look like this: 7pm: reach home, 7pm to 12mn: mindless internet surfing, 12mn to 2am: watch multiple episodes of Rick and Morty, 2am: shower and sleep. Which day do you think was more satisfying?
If you have to, set alarms on your phone to alert you to when you need to head home or prepare for bed. It sounds draconian, but may actually raise your life satisfaction.
Every day at lunchtime, thousands of office workers chope seats with tissue packets and join the queue at hawker centres for a quick, cheap but unhealthy meal.
Even if you can afford to eat at cafes and restaurants every day at lunchtime, don’t assume that you’re eating healthily. Unless you cook yourself, there is no way to control what the eatery puts into your food. Even Subway sandwiches are far from healthy.
The most reliable way to improve your diet is to make your own meals at home. You can make batches of lunches once or twice a week and then take them to work, or take leftovers from dinner to the office.
If nobody in your household cooks, challenge yourself to start. It’s really not that hard. You don’t have to replace every single lunch with home-cooked food. Just once or twice a week is a good start. As you experiment and familiarise yourself with various recipes, the cooking process will become a lot faster and easier.
Has your job negatively affected your health? Tell us why in the comments!