We are fast heading into the colder, shorter months of the calendar year – a time when companies typically suffer spikes in muscle and joint injuries and absenteeism goes through an anticipated rise. It’s also a time when many staff enter ‘health hibernation’ – content to exercise less and tuck into comfortable, warming foods. They don’t naturally feel thirsty in the colder air so many simply stop or greatly reduce their water intake. Less exercise, unhealthy food, zero hydration – the perfect recipe for illness, injuries and accidents.
So, it begs the question – does absenteeism have to rise markedly through winter? The answer is no. Think about the people you work and live with who stay fit and strong, eat well and drink plenty of water twelve months of the year. Do they suffer chronic colds and flus through the colder months?
It’s true that staving off the common cold or flu is reliant on maintaining strong immunity through the winter period, so here’s a few tips for staying well this winter:
• join a gym for the winter period,
• buy a theraband; these stretchy bands are the ultimate mobile gym for those in the transport industry (google theraband exercises),
• buy an aerobics, pilates and/or yoga DVD to follow in the warmth of your home,
• hire an exercise bike, treadmill or cross trainer and go for it in front of your TV, or
• get yourself a good beanie and pair of gloves and tackle the winter weather head on.
The top ten immune boosting foods for the cooler months are broccoli, beef, brazil nuts, garlic, carrots, beetroot, ginger, kiwi fruit, seeds and mushrooms. These foods are rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins, therefore will assist with energy, concentration and mood this coming winter. It might not sound as sexy as a pie or chicken schnitzel, but every cell of your body will have a party when those foods enter your system.
Another fantastic tip for maintaining strong immunity and not putting on weight in winter is to enjoy warm or hot water with a slice of lemon. Not only does lemon water provide much needed warmth, but it strips unwanted acid from your muscles, boosts your metabolism and hydrates your system.
If you are managing people, take the time to review your absenteeism rates over the past five years and assess whether there is in fact a pattern of increased injury rates between May and September. Calculate how much health hibernation is costing your company, not just financially, but also culturally. Remember that when a staff member is absent, increased pressure is placed on those left to pick up the slack therefore increasing their risk of illness, injury or incident. We implore you to talk about health hibernation with your staff in toolbox meetings, encouraging your staff to continue to exercise, choose healthy foods and ensure that they remain hydrated with plenty of water. The results may just astound you.
From the Eaton and R&R Corporate Health teams, good luck and good health.
Written by Matthew Beechey, Director of R&R Corporate Health and acclaimed industry health and wellbeing expert.