When you think about health crises in America, things like obesity, heart disease, and drug abuse come to mind, but what if your 9-to-5 job is the biggest threat you face?
When you study today's business environment where more and more people are spending large percentages of their days sitting at desks, it becomes clear that office jobs may be the silent killer of millions of Americans. The question is: Is it too late to do something about it?
Here's How Your Job is Impacting Your Health
You go to work in order to make a living. You make a living so that you can keep your family safe, comfortable, happy, and healthy. But what if your job is actually prematurely killing you? There's a growing body of evidence that suggests office jobs, and the habits that come with them, are having a negative impact on the health of millions of Americans across all industries and sectors.
In order to better understand this health crisis, let's take a look at some of the biggest factors in play and how they can be corrected.
1. Sitting is the New Smoking
Perhaps you've heard the claims that say sitting is the new smoking, but what does that actually mean? How harmful is an excessively sedentary lifestyle? If you study the numbers and analyze research reports, the data shows that excessive sitting leads to a host of health problems.
According to Dr. James Levine, director of the May Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death."
That's a bold statement, but there's ample evidence to back it up. Credible research studies have found that sitting for long periods of time on a daily basis leads to an increased risk of colon, endometrial, and lung cancer, as well as heart disease and even breast cancer.
The easiest solution is to break up long periods of sitting. This can be done in a number of ways, with standing desks being one of the more popular solutions. More exercise, especially during lunch breaks and after work, is obviously necessary as well.
2. Stress and Anxiety
By one estimate, workplace stress contributes to $190 billion in annual healthcare expenses, as well as 120,000 deaths. If that's true, employment-related anxiety kills more Americans than diabetes, Alzheimer's, and the flu each year. In other words, it's an epidemic.
The problem with stress and anxiety is that these issues rarely get discussed out loud. There's a certain stigma about mental health in the workplace and employees are indirectly encouraged to stay quiet.
Unfortunately, the only way to curb the volume of stress in the workplace is to raise awareness about it. Businesses need to raise awareness about this problem and encourage people to speak up so that solutions can be initiated.
3. Poor Air Quality
Air quality is something most people don't spend any time thinking about. If you do contemplate it, it generally has to do with outdoor air pollution or the air quality within your home. You probably aren't considering the air quality in your office, even though it's a major problem.
"Poisonous indoor air is almost completely ignored by the press, the public and those who bankroll scientific research--it gets about 100 times less research funding than outdoor air, even though the average American spends about 90 percent of the time inside," explains Douglas Main of Newsweek.
For starters, businesses need to do a better job of measuring indoor air quality so that they're aware of the presence of potentially harmful particles. Then, businesses need to make a commitment to eliminating these toxins and encouraging healthier habits.
4. Terrible Diets
Poor dietary habits are another major problem. Not only are more people working through lunch and eating meals at their desks, but there's been a rise in the popularity of fast food and takeout over the years.
The result is a malnourished and unhealthy workforce that's also less productive due to their low quality diets. The best piece of advice is to take advantage of your lunch break by getting out of the office and eating something fresh and healthy.
"Look at your lunch break as recess -- a time to release the ants in your pants, get your blood flowing and just enjoy a change of scene," HuffPost Food and Health Editor Kate Bratskeir suggests. "Any chance to break the pattern of a sedentary life should be taken, and doing so can keep weight from creeping on."
Prioritizing Better Health
There's a huge push for healthy living in virtually every area of personal life in America. You'll find doctors and groups lobbying for healthier habits and encouraging better lifestyles, but why is it that our poor work habits get ignored?
If we really want to fix America's health crisis and encourage healthy living, it's time that we start focusing on these issues. There is no perfect solution, but progress must be made.