Is Your Job Putting You at Risk for Diabetes?

Find creative ways to make work healthier

Does your job keep you stuck at a desk or sitting behind the wheel for long hours? We all know being sedentary isn’t good for us, but if your job requires it, there are creative ways to help overcome the health risks.

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What exactly are the risks? A recent Gallup poll found that transportation, production and clerical employees not only get less exercise, but they’re also at higher risk for obesity and diabetes than those in more active jobs.

For many, the challenge is to squeeze in physical activity and also find healthy food in the workplace.

Tips to get more activity

Research shows that taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by as much as 30 percent. This modest goal can offer a big reward.

But if that doesn’t fit into your schedule, don’t despair. Here are other ways to be more active:

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Use a standing desk. It’s a trend — simply standing instead of sitting while working at your computer improves blood flow and increases circulation.

Take more breaks and discover creative ways to move.

  • Instead of calling or e-mailing a colleague down the hall or on another floor, walk to his desk.
  • If you’re in a delivery vehicle during the day, get out and move around at every stop.
  • If your delivery is on an upper floor, take the stairs.
  • During bathroom and lunch breaks, take time to stretch your legs, move around or do chair yoga.

Don’t forget off-the-clock time. Think about the week as a whole. If you can’t do 30 minutes of exercise before work, aim for 150 minutes of movement each week, which includes evenings and weekends.

An activity tracking device or fitness app can help you track of all your movement. These tools can even offer reminders to get up and move around when you can.

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Find easy ways to eat healthy at work

The less access you have to healthy food, the more difficult it is to control your weight and reduce your risk of health problems. It may just take a little thought to improve your situation.

A few small changes can make a big difference:

  • Plan ahead. Pack a cooler with fresh fruits and vegetables, granola and sandwiches like peanut butter or grilled chicken on whole grain bread.
  • Avoid easy-to-grab, but less healthy carbohydrates like white bread, donuts, bagels and sweetened cereals.
  • Skip sugary drinks — including juices. Instead, drink water, coffee or tea.
  • Eat less meat — especially cutting back on red meat and processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meat. Research shows consuming even small amounts of these can increase your diabetes risk.

Make other changes while you’re at it

There are a couple other habits that can derail your efforts to improve your health. Two more tips:

  • If you smoke, do everything possible to stop.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Small amounts are sometimes beneficial, but don’t overdo it.

A sedentary job can make it more difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle. But reducing your risk of obesity and diabetes can begin with a simple healthy packed lunch or a vow to use the steps instead of the elevator. You can build healthy habits from there.

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Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs

Sue Cotey, RN, CDE, and Andrea Harris, RN, CDE, are Diabetes Educators with the Lennon Diabetes Center at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center. Sue is the Program Coordinator.
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