Around 60% of Americans are considered to be working professionals, and as workplace demands continue to increase, stress and other mental health conditions are on a steady incline. Recent studies have shown that incorporating physical fitness as well as healthier diets into daily routines is a critical piece of the recovery journey. Among working professionals who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse, it is now easier than ever to incorporate into their daily lives.
The last thing most people want to do when they get home from work is to go to the gym, but prioritizing physical fitness each day can be the determining factor in overall life satisfaction, overall physical and mental health, and overall job performance. Adequate nutrition and healthy eating habits can also go a long way toward improving mood, energy levels, and reducing susceptibility to stress.
Besides stress management and learning organizational skills, one of the most positively impactful ways of coping with workplace stress and related mental health conditions is physical fitness. Physical fitness is an important preventative measure for young people just starting their careers. Adding just 30 minutes of physical activity each day has been shown to:
These benefits of physical fitness have all been proven to positively affect and improve workplace and at-home relationships which also contributes to an overall sense of satisfaction of life for working professionals. Consistent physical fitness each day is linked to improvements in mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Companies and individuals spend nearly 50% more on healthcare for people reporting high levels of stress due to their job. The United States as a whole could save anywhere between $37.6 billion and $67.8 billion a year on medical and behavioral expenses for workplace professionals if physical fitness was implemented into the daily lives of these individuals.
The positive impact of exercise on substance abuse is linked to the fact that regular exercise can help decrease the urge for drugs and alcohol by reinforcing the brain’s natural ability to produce and regulate certain neurotransmitters. A lack of balance among these neurotransmitters can increase susceptibility to substance abuse, especially in people with co-occurring mental health conditions. In people who struggle with substance abuse, exercise can:
Of the people struggling with substance abuse who incorporated regular exercise into their recovery, researchers saw an increase in drug and alcohol abstinence of 95%.
Studies currently show that individuals in the United States who struggle with high levels of stress and other mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, may be deficient in key neurotransmitters that our bodies and brains need. There are dietary measures that can be taken to increase the levels of many of these neurotransmitters, by increasing the intake of the “raw materials” that these neurotransmitters are made from. Implementing the recommended vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids can greatly improve symptoms of stress. Healthy eating can also be a key preventative measure for young working professionals to decrease their risk of workplace stress leading to mental and physical health conditions.
Just a few areas that diet can affect include:
Interestingly, the GI tract influences the production of certain neurotransmitters. Consumption of healthy, nutrient-rich foods helps the “good” bacteria in the GI tract grow which directly influences the production of positive neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters are influenced by proteins and other essential fatty acids, and there is a link between carbohydrates consumed and insulin levels which also affect neurotransmitter release within the brain. A more balanced diet can regulate and balance the neurotransmitters within the brain that improve anxiety, depression, and ultimately substance abuse.
Busy lifestyles often lead to convenient sources of food, mainly fast food, which do not provide all of the essential nutrients our bodies need to function properly and healthily. The things we put into our bodies directly affect brain function. There are many different resources out there that can help working professionals schedule physical fitness into their daily lives to help reduce the negative effects of stress as well as help them prioritize healthy eating habits.
Though fast food is an easy and convenient means of obtaining food, there are many healthier options available for working professionals. A few of the foods that can help improve mental health include:
Packing your lunch is a great way of making sure that the food available is healthy and nutrient-rich. Many people find it easier to meal prep on the weekends, that way it is convenient in the morning to grab and go. Some other ways to implement healthy eating are:
Apps such as MyFitnessPal are great ways of tracking what you eat and what category (carbohydrate, protein, fats) those foods fall into and it can help you become more aware of what things you are putting into your body. It can also help to see a nutritionist because they can tell you what things your diet may be lacking and help you make a plan moving forward on what things you should implement into your diet and what things you should stay away from. In the end, being more health-conscious and making sure to add specific vitamins, minerals, and fats into your diet can help reduce the risk of mental health issues, and improve sleep, mood, and overall state of mind.
There are many different ways working individuals can implement physical fitness into their daily routine. Although 30 minutes might seem daunting when looking at each day’s busy schedule, studies have shown that breaking it into three 10 minute intervals is just as effective as completing a single 30 minutes of fitness. Some individuals may find it easier to fit this 30 minutes in before or after work, and several fitness apps can be used to track this time such as:
Some extremely helpful fitness resources include:
A fitness app that can benefit you and others, Charity Miles logs your fitness activity, and for every mile you run, the sponsors of the app will donate to a charity of your choosing. Available for Android and iOS through their website.
An app that tracks workouts as well as meals. This can help individuals who are interested in overall physical health and the app breaks down caloric intake for each day as well as how many calories those exercises burn. MyFitnessPal also offers online communities, some directed specifically at individuals with mental health and substance abuse conditions, to help motivate individuals in group settings.
This non-profit organization is challenging people who struggle with mental health conditions and substance abuse to their Fitness 4Mind4Body which offers different challenges, tips, and tricks for promoting physical wellness and nutritional balance.
If you are unable to fit in a single 30-minute workout, some other ideas for implementing physical activity into your day in increments are:
Another helpful suggestion is to prioritize physical activities on the weekends to make up for the week. This could include going to the park, swimming, hiking, and a wide variety of other low-impact, healthy activities.
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