There's nothing wrong with a little inflammation. Most of us have it, most of the time, and that's a good thing. Healthy inflammation is just your body putting the immune system through its paces. Too much inflammation, though, is definitely not a good thing, and for some of us, work may be contributing to unhealthy levels. Here are just a few examples of how it can happen while on the job:
1. Too much sitting down.
Jobs that require us to sit a lot can contribute to chronic inflammation, too. In a number of studies, sitting more has been associated with higher levels of biomarkers associated with inflammation. The bad news is that this appears to hold true independent of body mass index (BMI), meaning that even people with a healthy weight can't get away with a sedentary lifestyle.
To combat this, you could try a standing desk for part of the day, twice-hourly breaks from your seated position, or both. It's important to note that most physicians agree--extra exercise doesn't make up for this bad habit.
2. Poor diet.
Nutritional science is still in its infancy, and despite the good things it's teaching us, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sea of seemingly contradictory advice out there. Some people have never felt better after going on a vegan diet. Others say the same thing about only dropping carbs, or adopting any number of other diet restrictions.
The truth is, researchers aren't totally sure what the healthiest diet looks like, and in any case, it likely depends on the person. But we do know what's unhealthy:
- eating out of vending machines (unless the one at your workplace looks like this)
- going out for a fast-food lunch every day
- skipping breakfast to punch the clock on time
3. Consistently succumbing to stress.
Talk about unavoidable. As psychological stress builds, it begins to affect the body's ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Uncontrolled inflammation, in turn, contributes to all kinds of diseases.
If you're looking for a way to mitigate its effects that don't involve shunning your work responsibilities or searching for a less stressful job, Harvard researchers suggest trying yoga. Bonus, you can do it without leaving the office, which, for the most time-crunched among us, may be the only option.
A tight work schedule can force us into all of those bad habits. When that happens, watch out: inflammation incoming, and with it, having to use sick days for actually being sick.
Unfortunately, loving your job doesn't necessarily mean it loves you back--in fact, it might be killing you slowly. If you work to stay on top of it by managing these problem areas, you'll be that much healthier and able to enjoy yourself when retirement rolls around.