As we fill our days with meetings or long stretches at the computer, healthy choices are often the first things to go.
“Typically meetings are extremely unhealthy – all you’re doing is sitting there, sometimes in a stressful situation, and often with poor food choices, so there’s a greater risk for eating and drinking things that aren’t good for you,” explains Dr. Khushboo Mehta, Program Chief of Family Practice at Kaiser Permanente, who also practices family medicine at the Redmond Medical Center.
Studies have shown that even small changes can have significant results. For example:
- after one day of healthy eating, employees were 25 per cent more likely to feel good about their work
- getting employees moving can improve their physical health: too much sitting is associated with increased risk for at least 35 chronic diseases.
- a few minutes of walking can boost the flow of creative ideas by 60 per cent – even after you sit back down!
The good news is that giving your meetings a healthy boost is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
It starts with what Dr. Mehta calls “damage control” – small, simple changes you can make right now.
- Eat Well – At Kaiser Permanente, for example, guidelines outline a variety of healthy food options for meetings, considering factors such as fiber, fat and calories. No, you won’t find cookies, donuts or sugar-laden juice on that list, but hearty, flavorful options like low-fat cheese and fresh fruit for breakfast, and a salad bar or healthier sandwich options with lean meats and for veggies for lunch. Satisfy between-meal munchies with selections like fresh veggies with hummus, fruits and nuts, still or sparkling water, low-fat milk, coffee and unsweetened teas.
- Get Up & Move – Nothing saps energy and creativity like long meetings with people stuck in their chairs. Dr. Mehta likes to break things up with opportunities to stand and move, or simply encourage people to stand up, stretch or get some water – small things that help refocus attentions. For those stuck at their desks, try setting a periodic reminder to stand and stretch or have a brief walk around the office or around the block.
- Walk & Talk – Taking the movement message one step further, Dr. Mehta is a big fan of walking meetings for smaller groups, and her team often starts the day with a 20 to 30-minute walking session. “When we finish, people are energized for the day,” she says. Employers can also support employee wellness by offering options like standing desks and making available tools like stretching bands and fitness balls.
We may spend most of our day at work, but a few small steps can make those days healthier, happier and more productive!