10 Ways to Make Any Job Healthier

Stress and poor health don't have to be a way of life.


Slide Show: 10 Ways to Make Any Job Healthier

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[See 10 jobs with great return on investment.]

Exercise at lunch: A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that 44 percent of workers report having gained weight while at their current jobs. It lists reasons that make sense: Sitting at a desk nearly all day; stress. Working out during a lunch hour can make a significant difference—although just 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men make that choice.

Don't de-stress with TV at night: Much in the way that adding healthy foods to your diet is only one piece of nutritional health and must be accompanied by reducing unhealthy foods, adding exercise to your lifestyle is only one piece of physical health. You must also reduce the amount of sitting, which is no easy move for someone with a desk job. The authors of a recent editorial for the British Journal of Sports Medicine argue that people should be encouraged not only to workout, but also to stay moving—taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking a five minute break while doing sedentary work, for example. Too many people work at a desk all day and then head home to watch TV at night. In fact, a study of Australian adults found that a one-hour increase in TV watching increased the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in women by 26 percent—regardless of the amount of exercise those women performed.

Request a flexible work arrangement: In some parts of the world, lawmakers have jumped into the debate over flexible work arrangements. Parents with young kids also have a statutory right to ask for flexible work arrangements in the U.K. The benefits of a controllable work schedule are great, even for non-parents. A recent Cochrane review of 10 studies found that control over one's own work hours yielded health benefits in areas such as blood pressure and sleep.

Keep a clean desk: A 2004 study by NEC-Mitsubishi coined a phrase for this: "irritable desk syndrome." Researchers determined that cluttered desks were among the workplace factors making employees ill. Some 2,000 workers were surveyed and 45 percent reported that it was possible to fix the mess of clutter and paper on their desks that increased their stress at work.

Work on your relationship with your boss: You might not think that nurturing a better relationship with your manager would have much impact on your physical health, but it does. For one thing, when advocating for a lighter workload, a more flexible schedule, or less overtime, you'll have a better shot getting what you want if your boss is in your corner. Also, there's evidence that workers who feel they have good bosses appear to have a lower risk of heart disease.