Healthcare workers are among the unhealthiest in America, with an obesity rate of nearly 35 percent, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and shared by Fierce Healthcare.
While the numbers include those who spend most of their days behind desks, as well as doctors and nurses who are on their feet all day, you can improve your health and lose weight by making a few small lifestyle changes.
- Pack healthy snacks to munch on at work. Long hours, unexpected patient visits and emergencies can make it hard to escape the hospital or facility for a nutritious lunch or dinner. If you frequently find yourself buying a candy bar from the vending machine or skipping meals, make sure you have carrot sticks, granola bars, fruit or even string cheese on hand to snack on. Chewing sugar-free gum can help you resist cravings and last a bit longer between meals, too. Resist the urge to grab a handful of candy from a coworker’s desk, and let friends know that you need their help sticking to a healthier diet.
- Monitor your own weight and BMI. You evaluate patients’ weight gain and loss frequently, but when is the last time you stepped on a scale? Putting on even 10 pounds can make you feel sluggish or cause your clothes to fit a bit tighter, so keep an eye on how you’re feeling and whether you’re gaining weight. If you do notice a difference, think about whether you’ve changed your routine or are simply reacting to a new travel assignment. Sometimes even moving to a new place and building new habits can cause your weight to fluctuate.
- Drink plenty of water and eliminate sugary drinks. While they might give you a short-term energy boost, caffeinated soda and energy drinks are loaded with sugar and can wreck even the healthiest diet. Even diet sodas, though they’re sugar-free, can affect your metabolism. Start by replacing them with flavored water, if you’re missing the sweet, or simply limit yourself to one soda or energy drink a week to begin. Freezing water bottles before you get to work or adding lime and lemon can help you sip more water throughout the day, too.
- Make time to exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five days a week is ideal for maintaining your body weight — but if you have a few pounds to lose, you’ll need to add some cardio to your workout. Zumba is a fun, high-energy exercise you might enjoy doing with friends, and tae bo or kick boxing are other options, especially if you don’t enjoy jogging. Brisk walking around the block, even for just 15 minutes, can be a great place to start when you’re out of the habit.
- Get your family and friends moving with you. Motivating yourself to lose weight or get in shape is hard when you’re surrounded by couch potatoes. Figure out an activity — whether it’s hiking, biking, swimming, tennis, soccer or rock climbing — you can do with your spouse, children or friends, and then stick to it. Set up a recurring appointment on your calendars so that everyone is committed to being more active. You’ll find it makes a difference, and it can help you relieve stress and have something fun to look forward to during the week as well.
Do you have easy tips for being healthier and more active as a nurse? Share them in the comments!