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Keeping healthy

Last updated: 2003-10-23

exercise can improve health

Doing exercise can improve health

In the wake of Tony Blair's recent heart scare, busy men and women are being advised to make sure their lifestyle doesn't impact on their health. It's not just stress that's affecting today's workforce it's a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet as well as long hours at work.

Multiple flights, nights in hotels, working on the move and back-to-back meetings are common for today's high-flying male and female executives. According to Dr Paula Franklin of healthcare company BUPA, such a lifestyle can lead to health problems such as heart disease, fatigue, susceptibility to colds, stress and musculo-skeletal problems.

So what can you do to make sure you keep in tip-top shape? Dr Franklin advises the following:

Exercise

While it may be impossible to get to regular exercise classes, most good quality hotels at least have a gym these days. Throwing in a pair of trainers and going for a quick run or a brisk walk around the block is also a good idea. Remember to use the stairs instead of the lift too. Similarly if there's a pool at the hotel this is a great way to take exercise and de-stress. Alternatively try a few of these in a hotel room:

For those keen on yoga and Pilates there might be an exercise channel available on the in-room video system.

Chair dips or sit ups, press-ups and stretching can all be achieved in limited room space.

Improvise hand weights from some of the heavier bottles in the mini bar for arm lifts.

Diet

Breakfast briefings, on-the-go lunches and discussions over dinner, coupled with little exercise spell disaster for the executive and wreak havoc with the digestion. Dr Franklin says with a little effort, you can eat healthily without appearing faddish or fussy.

Make sure to have a good breakfast as this builds up energy for the working day and helps stop mid-morning snacking.

In meetings swap the biscuit tray for fresh fruit instead.

Avoid fried and fatty foods. Choose simple foods from the four main food groups: wholemeal breads and potatoes that have been baked or roasted, pasta and rice; plenty of fish and lean red meat; aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables throughout the day.

Avoid salt at the table and any sauces.

Avoid nuts and crisps.

Try and choose fruit juices or water instead of fizzy soft drinks.

Watch your alcohol intake making sure you drink within medically recommended limits (14 units for women and 21 units per week for men).

It's still possible to eat out on expenses and choose the healthier options - Indian dishes prepared in the tandoori are dry cooked and less calorific than those cooked in sauces for example and fresh pasta cooked with a tomato and vegetable sauce is more nutritious than pizza.

Sleep

Sleep is a precious commodity for any busy executive and when they are crossing time zones and in a different bed every night their sleep patterns are easily disrupted. A good night's sleep enables them to work at optimum capacity and keep their concentration. Whether it's fighting off jet lag or combating insomnia try some of these handy tips for getting to sleep:

Don't eat too late.

Limit caffeine in the evening and don't drink any prior to bedtime

Take a warm bath before bed and bring some relaxing music to play in the room with a milky drink

Sleeping after alcohol will not be good quality sleep.

Try out some relaxation techniques such as visualising a beautiful beach or lying in bed and tensing and relaxing each group of muscles in turn. Posture

Technology

Business technology is getting smaller and smaller, but we stay the same size. Therefore, if not used properly, the tiniest of mobile phones and laptops pose a challenge for large executive hands, or manicured fingers. Today's executives often don't have the luxury of an ergonomically designed desk with full size telephone, keyboard and screen. They're more likely to be hot-desking it or dialling up in a hotel room, on a train or in an airport lounge. It's therefore important to take regular breaks to avoid eyestrain, cricked necks and muscular tension. Some of this advice should cut down on musculo-skeletal pain:

Use a hands free device for a mobile phone to prevent neck strain and reduce exposure to radio waves (known as SAR - the 'specific absorption rate').

When using a laptop select a table at an appropriate height to help maintain good back and hand posture and take regular breaks to avoid repetitive strain injuries and eye strain.

Take 'micro pauses' as well - these are small changes in working activity to allow you to adopt different postures, positions and eye-focus. This includes looking away from the screen to read documents, answering the phone and doing arm, back and legs stretches in the chair.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure, so BUPA advises executives to take time out for regular health screens to diagnose illnesses early and give an early warning for potential problems due to lifestyle. It also encourages executives to take out private health insurance to give them peace of mind that if they do get sick, they'll get treated and back to work quickly - something that is always on the busy executive's mind. In addition, it's important to make sure that the family - if they have one - runs efficiently.

Related links:

BUPA