Does hard work mean healthy?
If someone has a physically demanding job, that makes them fit and healthy, right?
Good health is a combination of many factors and workers who have jobs that keep them active don’t always balance this with eating well, not smoking, drinking in line with the Australian guidelines and taking good care of their bodies.
Take workers in the construction industry. They’re an active bunch and yet statistics show that they are almost 10 per cent more likely to smoke than the national average. They are also at a greater risk of being obese or overweight than the national average despite being more physically active.
How is that possible?
Having a physically demanding job means active workers probably need to consume more kilojoules to get the energy they need to do their work. Too often, though, the temptation is to live off a diet of junk food bought from the nearest fast food shop or servo. This means consuming large amounts of sugar, saturated fats and salt.
The healthy alternative is to be prepared. Here are a few tips:
- Set yourself up for the day by eating a substantial, healthy breakfast like porridge, untoasted muesli or salt-reduced baked beans on multigrain toast. If you start work early, pack your breakfast the night before and take it along, ready for when hunger strikes.
- Take your own lunch so that you are not at the mercy of whatever energy-dense foods are available locally. Last night’s leftovers can make a tasty lunch and don’t forget to include plenty of vegetables or salad.
- Pack snacks that will keep you going between meals, like fruit, a small amount of unsalted nuts, or crackers with tuna.
- Ditch sugar-laden soft drink in favour of water – take your own bottle and refill throughout the day.
- Consider visiting a dietitian for advice on how much energy you need to consume and a detailed meal plan.
Workers with physically demanding jobs need to be in good physical condition, as the quality of their work and their personal safety depends on their endurance. This doesn’t just apply to workers like landscapers, construction workers or plumbers but can also affect workers like retail assistants or hairdressers who can be on their feet all day, sometimes in awkward positions.
The key is to take good care of your body. Here are some tips:
- Follow safe working practices when it comes to things like heavy lifting, repetitive strain and posture.
- Regularly do low-impact exercises and activities that increase muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga or Pilates are perfect or any simple stretching routine at the end of the day.
- Make sure you are wearing the right gear. If you are on your feet all day, for example, your shoes should offer the right support. Visit a podiatrist for advice if this is an issue.
- Listen to your body, and seek advice from your GP or relevant health professional if you experience any pain in joints, muscles etc.
For overall good health, weight and diet are significant factors, as are safe working practices and regular low-impact exercise. Here are other things to consider:
- Smoking affects almost all the organs in the body and causes cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and many other damaging and potentially fatal conditions. Contact the free Quitline service for advice on how to give up.
- The occasional drink with your work colleagues can be a good way to socialise and relax but if your workplace has a heavy drinking culture it could be affecting your health. Find other ways to socialise together.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
For more tips, take a look at our Your Health at Work leaflet.
The happy worker :)
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