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Risky Business: 4 Unhealthy Workplace Habits

By Martha Michael

Business Man Eating Doughnuts in Office

When wellness in the workplace is compromised, the “risky business” you may find yourself in is very different from the kind created by Tom Cruise’s character in the movie by that name. A healthy physical and emotional climate is important to your overall health, especially when you see how many hours you rack up at the office.

Some aspects routinely get overlooked, but a little tweaking and you can turn the tide from the life of the secretaries in The Devil Wears Prada to the secretaries in 9 to 5. However, taking charge of your situation and putting wellness practices in place is a lot harder than simply pouring yourself a cup of ambition.

Here are just four workplace practices you may want to reconsider.

Participating in Donut Day

Shape Magazine did the legwork for us by posting calorie counts from various donut shops. In search of the “least destructive” of these edible enemies, the writer had a surprise for readers: Krispy Kreme, of all places, had a trim 190-calorie glazed donut.

Winchell’s has a 100-calorie donut (though it’s mini-sized and pretty plain) and Dunkin’ Donuts offers a low of 200 calories for a chocolate donut with sprinkles. Writer Abby Lerner cautions about making smart substitutions. For instance, a blueberry muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts, she says, adds 410 calories to your count.

Look out for other epicurean sheep in wolves’ clothing, says an article in Esquire called “4 Breakfast Breads Worse for You Than Doughnuts.”

Take bagels, for instance. You’ll want to return to sugary donuts when you learn that a plain bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts is higher in calories than some of their sweet stuff. And when you add a little class to your sensible diet you get croissants. The Esquire article describes them as “butter-soaked French pastries” and, of course, they also have more than 300 calories.

You know, life isn’t literally a box of chocolates.

Engaging in Unhealthy Relationships

According to a Psychology Today article by Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., there may be a workplace relationship even more challenging than an office romance. LaBier wrote a two-part article called “The Lowdown on Abusive Bosses and the Unhealthy Workplace.” In it he talks about an “overall unhealthy management culture” that he believes is destructive for working Americans. The writer attributes names to a few examples, such as “the narcissistic and arrogant boss,” who he believes is often encouraged by companies, stoking a hostile work environment. LaBier even goes so far as to say some employees develop PTSD from working in such emotional climates.

Most people say their No. 1 reason to leave a job is because of a bad boss. LaBier also refers to a poll saying “36 percent of workers report ongoing work stress, most of which is related to negative or outright unhealthy management practices.” Problems range from unreasonable hours spent at work to unrealistic expectations.

Consider whether your circumstances are toxic because your mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Using Non-Ergonomic Office Furniture

The best place to turn for advice about office furniture is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, which provides safety advice: “A chair that is well-designed and appropriately adjusted is an essential element of a safe and productive computer workstation,” OSHA says. “A good chair provides necessary support to the back, legs, buttocks, and arms, while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions.”

Your office furniture needs to support you in all sitting positions.

If time spent in your workplace brings about back pain or issues with your hips and legs, a visit to the chiropractor can help you isolate what needs tweaking. Your practitioner can diagnose any postural compromises and offer suggestions as well as spinal adjustments, if needed.

Your chiropractor knows the standard for a seat back that offers adequate lumbar support and curvature for your spine. He or she may assign exercises to reduce shoulder tension and offer advice about the proper height for armrests and keyboards.

Getting Too Little Exercise

Aside from the obvious advantages of moving your body -- lower risk of diabetes and heart problems, to name a few -- your mind gets a boost as well. Heidi Godman, executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter, says fitness can dial down the forgetfulness you get from aging. There is something about exercise that changes memory and thinking skills in your brain.

Godman cites a study by the University of British Columbia in which researchers studied the effect of aerobic exercise on the brain. They concluded that it boosts the size of the hippocampus, which affects verbal memory. These kinds of statistics may come in handy, considering the alarming rate that dementia is flooding the population. According to Godman, a case of dementia is reported somewhere in the world every four seconds, and by the year 2050 there will be an estimated 115 million individuals suffering from its effects.

Exercise boosts the health of brain cells, she explains, recommending a routine that includes picking up more exercise -- about 150 minutes per week.

You don’t have to pump iron until you look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, just enough to stay fit and alert. In fact, with all four workplace habits, even small changes could be what you need so you don’t end up like the central character from Weekend at Bernie’s, who spent the entire film a little … ahem … lifeless.

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