How to stay healthy

1. Quotable quote

"Employers who offer health facilities don't do it out of pure altruism. Fit employees mean fewer absences, possibly higher productivity, and a healthier bottom line."

M. Brown, 'Survival of the fittest', Management Today, July 1996, p.77.

2. It's a fact

When billionaire oilman John D. Rockefeller was 60 years old, he made up his mind that he would live to be 100, so he compiled a set of rules to achieve that goal. These rules have become known as ‘the ten commandments of health’:

  1. Never lose interest in life or the world.
  2. Eat sparingly and at regular hours.
  3. Get plenty of sleep.
  4. Take plenty of exercise, but not too much.
  5. Never allow yourself to become annoyed.
  6. Set a daily schedule and stick to it.
  7. Get a lot of sunlight.
  8. Drink as much milk as will agree with you.
  9. Obey your doctor and consult him/her often.

10. Don’t overdo things.

Rockefeller made it to his 97th year. Despite today’s differing medical opinions on one or two of his rules, his healthy lifestyle would certainly not have disadvantaged him.

3. Smile & ponder

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, learnt about the game of golf for the first time on a visit to Scotland.

Grant was taken out on the links for a demo. His host placed a ball on the tee and took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf with a heavy thud, sending chunks of earth flying. The ball remained on the tee.

Again the host took a nasty slash at the ball. Again he missed.

A third almighty swish and once more the ball did not budge.

Grant watched the exhibition quietly, until after the sixth futile swoosh at the ball. At that time, so the story goes, he turned to his perspiring host and said:

‘There seems to be a good amount of exercise in this game. But tell me, what’s the purpose of the little white ball?’

The key to a productive worklife is to exercise several times a week - even if it simply involves spending half an hour swinging at - and missing - a little white golf ball.

4. Smile & ponder

Your body is the baggage you must carry through life. The more excess baggage, the shorter the trip.

5. Painless exercise

What we all want - particularly busy managers - is a painless way to exercise, one that requires little effort and no time. For this reason, personal trainer Maria Diaz from Healthworks provides these simple tips to incorporate as healthy habits and exercise into your busy routine:

  • Choose the stairs instead of the escalator. You can burn off as much as 1kg of fat each year.
  • Walk around while talking on the mobile/cordless phone. You could add hours to your exercise program.
  • Don't add butter to your sandwich, and you could save hundreds of grams of body fat annually.
  • Choose to walk/jog/run instead of swimming, and you'll burn more fat.
  • Walk an extra five minutes, three times a day. This small change can add up to 115 extra exercise minutes each week.
  • Don't use the TV remote control. Get up and change the channels manually.
  • Park your car two blocks from the train station/bus stop and walk instead.
  • Eat small meals four to five times a day instead of the three normal ones. This actually increases your metabolism and helps you burn fat faster.

6. Fat-free weight loss?

Erica, who had a sweet tooth, needed to lose weight. She went to the supermarket and discovered a plethora of low-fat and fat-free cookies, chips, cakes. She loaded up.

After several months of eating low-fat sweets, she became frustrated. She hadn't lost any weight.

'Erica,' her dietitian said, 'Fat free doesn't mean calorie-free!' Erica cut fat but boosted calories.

Your Heart: An Owner's Manual, The American Heart Association.

7. The murder of Grabwell Grommet

You may have heard the sad story of one Grabwell Grommet-the man who ignored his stress warning system.

On the morning of his 42nd birthday, Grabwell awoke to the peal of particularly ominous thunder. Glancing out of the window with bleary eyes, he saw written in fiery letters across the sky,


With shaking hands, Grabwell lit his first cigarette of the day. He didn't question the message. You don't question a message like that. His only question was, 'Who?'

At breakfast, as he salted his fried eggs, he told his wife Gratia, 'Someone is trying to kill me.'

'Who?' she asked with horror.

Grommet slowly stirred the cream and sugar into his coffee and shook his head. 'I don't know,' he responded.

Convinced though he was, Grommet couldn't go to the police with such a story. He decided that his only course was to go about his daily routine, and hope somehow to outwit his would-be murderer. He tried to think on his drive to the office, but the traffic lanes occupied him wholly. Nor, once behind his desk, could he find a moment, what with jangling phones, urgent memos and the problems and decisions piling up as they did every day.

It wasn't until his second glass of wine at lunch that the full terror of his position struck him. It was all he could do to finish his Lasagne Milanese.

'I can't panic,' he said to himself, lighting his cigarette. 'I simply must live my life as usual.'

So he worked until seven as usual, drove home as fast as usual, ate a hearty dinner as usual, had his two whiskies as usual, studied business reports as usual, had his two sleeping tablets as usual in order to get his usual six hours sleep.

As the days passed he manfully stuck to his routine. As the months went by, he began to take a perverse pleasure in his ability to survive.

'Whoever is trying to get me,' he'd say proudly to his wife, 'hasn't got me yet. I'm too smart for him!'

'Oh, please be careful, Grabwell,' she'd reply, ladling a second helping of Beef Stroganoff.

His pride grew as he managed to go on living. But, as surely as it must come to all men, death came at last to Grabwell Grommet. It came at his desk on a particularly busy day. He was 53. His grief-stricken widow demanded a full autopsy. But it only showed emphysema, arteriosclerosis, duodenal ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac neurosis, a cerebravivascular aneurism, pulmonary oedema, obesity, circulatory insufficiency, and a touch of cancer.

'How glad Grabwell would have been to know,' said the widow smiling proudly through her tears, 'that he died of natural causes.'

A. Hoppe in Physical Fitness Newsletter, University of Oregon, 1973.

8. Energy-boost check list

  1. Feeling energetic and ready-to-go will be helped if you stick to these.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Diet - eat light but don't skip meals.
  4. Go easy on caffeine.
  5. Drink plenty of water.
  6. Cut down on alcohol.
  7. Take forty winks, often - 15 minutes at a time is plenty.
  8. Sit and stand comfortably - keep your pelvis square.
  9. Think positive.

10. Choose the company of positive people.

Relax - meditation, massage, and aromatherapy can help.

9. Two ways to stay calm

More advice from 'Your Heart: An Owner's Manual' by The American Heart Association … Practised regularly, two relaxation techniques can help reduce angina pain (pain resulting from narrowed arteries), lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and alleviate anxiety and stress.

  1. Meditation. Pick a word, phrase, image, or suggestion to focus on. It could be an image of a calm sea, the work peace, or anything with meaning for you. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, and breathe slowly. Dwell on your word or image. Do this for ten to twenty minutes once or twice a day.
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation. Using this technique, you tense and then relax various muscle groups in your body. With practice, you'll begin to recognise the tension that comes with stress and learn to melt it away. Close your eyes and tense each muscle group one at a time to about 50 per cent maximum tenseness. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then release it. Breathe throughout the procedure, and be aware of what tenseness and relaxation feel like. Start with your neck and shoulders, progress to your face, hands and arms, buttocks and thighs, calves and feet. Then sit for a few minutes enjoying the feeling of total relaxation.

10. The piece of paper

The experts tell us that, when you have a problem that simply refuses to go away, just sitting worrying about it won't help - but this might…

Take a piece of paper and write down the worst possible outcome of your present worries. Be completely honest with yourself - this is for your eyes only. Fold the paper very small, put it in the corner of a drawer, and leave it there for two weeks. Now, try to forget all about it and get on with your life.

At the end of the fortnight, take it out, unfold it and read your thoughts. You will doubtless be surprised at what you had written. Indeed, it's highly probably that you'll find things turned out much better than you predicted.

All of which surely proves that worry alone never cures anything.

11. Caught sleeping

It's important to get enough sleep if you are to be productive in the workplace. But if you get caught sleeping at your desk, what are you to say?

The ten best things to say if you get caught by your boss while sleeping at your desk…

  • "They told me at the Blood Bank that this might happen."
  • "This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people!"
  • "Darn, why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem."
  • "Someone must have put decaf in the wrong pot again…"
  • "Wasn't sleeping! Was trying to pick up my contact lens without using my hands."
  • "Whew! I guess I left the lid off the liquid paper again."
  • "This is just a 15-minute power nap like they raved about at the last management course you sent me to."
  • "I wasn't sleeping. I was meditating on our mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm."
  • "Actually I was testing the 'Stress Level Elimination Exercise Plan' (SLEEP) outlined in the latest company journal."
  • "Amen."

12. Refuel wisely - or make decisions unwisely

According to nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, food may be the last thing people think about when they're flat-out at work. But she warns against skipping meals: "The body needs re-fuelling every four to five hours. When you're hungry, you're less likely to make wise decisions'

Stanton sees fresh fruit as a great snack and says it's easy to take a few pieces to work - or nip out and buy some. She's not a fan of fast food, but instead recommends a sandwich, bread roll, or pita bread.

13. Boost your energy level

Do you get tired at certain times of the day, such as mid-afternoon? According to nutritionist Ansle Hudson, it may be your diet.

She says the brain runs on carbohydrates which are quickly digested, in an hour or so, and easily converted to energy. Fats take six to eight hours to digest. They create an energy drain in your system in the short term and they tend to get stored as body fat which is hard to release as energy.

So, she advises, if your energy is sporadically low, try having a meal or snack every three to four hours on foods high in carbohydrates - such as apples, bananas, fat-free biscuits, or dry cereal. You may find that your energy level stays more constant or even increases.

14. Harvard's long life findings

Forget pills and potions. The secret of living to a ripe old age may be a matter of personal choice.

A team from the Harvard medical school have tracked the physical and mental health of 724 men over more than 60 years to identify the eight factors that, they conclude, are the key to a long life - and few of them are beyond an individual's control:

-Drinking moderately

  • Not smoking
  • Having a stable marriage
  • Taking exercise
  • Maintaining the right weight
  • Receiving a good education
  • Having the ability to look on the bright side of life and not suffering depressive illness.

Only the factors concerning education and depression do not have a large element of personal choice, the researchers say.

15. The Health Diet

The Golden Door Health Retreat's diet for smart managers:

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Drink more water - and less alcohol. Use water in preference to any other beverage. Aim for at least two litres daily.
  • Do not eat meat every day - and when you do, eat small portions.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week - fish such as salmon and tuna contain good oils for your health.
  • Eat less sugar.
  • Eat less saturated fats - limit sauces, gravies, margarine and trim the skin and excess fat from animal products. Good fats include cold-pressed olive oil, flax seed oil, nuts and seeds and fish oil.
  • Limit tea and coffee intake.
  • Slow down when you eat - and chew your food well.

16. Are you a workaholic?

A balanced lifestyle is essential for effective managers. If you over-commit yourself to the workplace, your lifestyle and health may suffer in the end.

If you answer yes to many of these questions, you may be in danger of workaholism:

o When you're not working, do you feel at a loose end?

o Do you believe you are the only person who can do your job properly?

o Is your work challenging and rewarding?

o Do you suffer stress headaches?

o Are you having relationship troubles?

o Do you take work home at weekends or on holidays?

o Are you a competitive person by nature?

o Do you put in long hours but feel guilty if you occasionally leave work early?

o Do you have trouble delegating jobs to others?

o Are you tired of friends or relatives complaining they don't see enough of you?

o If you took a lower-paid job with lower performance expectations would you still put in extra hours and effort?

17. Sharp's ten steps to better sleep

Lack of sleep can impact on work productivity, quality of life, relationships, success at work, and how you go about achieving your goals - yet around 80 per cent of people experience sleep disorders at some point in their lives, and 30 per cent have lasting difficulty.

In 'The Good Sleep Guide' (Penguin), Dr Timothy Sharp offers these ten steps to better sleep:

  • Understand the need for sleep. While the average person needs 7.5 hours sleep, some need only 4 hours, others up to 12. Realise that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.
  • Make sleep a priority. Do this and the health and wellbeing benefits will be significant.
  • Watch your diet. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine and too much alcohol at night.
  • Exercise and be active. Do strenuous exercise three or four times a week and if you have a desk job, get up and walk around. Avoid vigorous exercise just before bed.
  • Relax. Try slow breathing techniques, progressive muscular relaxation, and imagery (picture yourself in a pleasant rainforest).

o Determine a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and get up at regular times every day. Develop a pre-bed routine or wind down 60 minutes before you go to sleep. This should involve relaxing activities such as light reading (not work-related). Also keep your bed for sleeping - avoid eating, working or watching TV in bed.

o Organise your time. If you are rushed off your feet all day and not getting enough done, you'll find it hard to unwind at night.

o Develop healthy thinking and worry control. Worry is the biggest cause of insomnia. Catch those unhelpful thoughts - if you are lying awake worrying about an 11 am appointment the next day, tell yourself that you can't do anything about it now and that if you sleep you'll be better equipped to deal with it tomorrow.

o Deal with other problems. Chronic health problems, depression and anxiety also affect sleep. Seek professional help to deal with them.

o Persevere and practise. Don't get discouraged if in one week you're still not sleeping better. It can take at least four weeks to change your habits.

18. Sit and burn

According to Fitness magazine, even sitting through a business meeting burns calories-88.5 calories per hour, to be exact. Compare that to typing on a computer (96 calories per hour) and cleaning up your desk (177 calories per hour).

'Looking for Cover', Stephen Barlas, Entrepreneur Magazine, Vol 26, 1998, page 16.

19. Psst! Wanna live longer?

There's a growing literature on how to live longer. Here's a summary of some recent findings from researchers around the world. Application of some of these findings to your job should prove interesting.

  • Eat chocolate and sweets. Harvard School of Public Health research found that those who ate chocolate or sweets lived almost a year longer than those who abstained.
  • Work for free. University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research showed that seniors who volunteered for up to 40 hours over the past year were less likely to die over the next seven and a half years.
  • Become a believer. According to a study by the National (US) Institute of Healthcare Research, regular attendance at a church, synagogue, mosque, or Buddhist monastery is related to longer life.
  • Stub it out. According to The Netherlands' Erasmus University people who do not smoke, and smokers who quit, have longer life expectancy and less time lost to disability than smokers,
  • Lose the spare tyre. Scientists from the University of North Carolina revealed there were fewer premature deaths among those who were their ideal weight.
  • Go city. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that the health of people living in rural and remote areas of Australia is worse than those living in capital cities and other metropolitan areas.
  • Move and keep moving. The Journal of the American Heart Association said benefits were more evident in long-term exercisers.
  • Turn on the waterworks. According to the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine, men and women who cry develop far less heart disease.
  • Develop a drinking habit. University of New South Wales researchers found that male moderate drinkers could expect to live an average of 7.6 months longer (2.7 months for women) than abstainers.