By Dr. Susan Johnson
Health at Work
Taking short breaks during the work day has long been advocated by the medical profession. Research shows that people who sit too long during the day are at greater risk of health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Benefits of taking several five to 15 minute breaks throughout the day include the following:
- Increased productivity and efficiency
- Lowered blood pressure — the Mayo clinic recommends taking breaks for deep-breathing exercises.
- Reduced stress — studies show that just a few minutes away from the computer significantly lowers stress.
- Decreased chance of getting heart disease — work stress has been linked to heart disease, and taking frequent breaks alleviates stress.
- Increased energy levels — some studies indicate that a nap or walk is more effective than several cups of coffee.
- Reduced chance of getting repetitive stress syndrome and having eye strain.
In addition to the need for breaks during work, there is evidence for the psychological and physiological effects of experiencing nature and the outdoors.
Roger Ulrich, a professor and director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A & M University, found that viewing natural scenes or elements fosters stress recovery by evoking positive feelings, reducing negative emotions and blocking or reducing stressful thoughts. When viewing vegetation as opposed to urban scenes, test subjects exhibited lower alpha brain patterns, which are associated with being wakefully relaxed.
A new lunch and learn series starting this week at the MUSC Urban Farm will provide MUSC employees and students an opportunity to take a healthy work break surrounded by natural and therapeutic scenery.
Each Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., participants can enjoy a lunchtime demonstration or discussion about gardening, nutrition or sustainability while dining in a relaxing, stress-free setting.
Additional opportunities to take a break at the farm include weekly Work and Learn sessions now on Thursdays from 9 to 10 a.m. and Saturdays from 9 – 11 a.m. Each Work and Learn includes an educational component, work chores to maintain the farm and a harvest with all participants taking a share home in return for their work or donating it on special outreach harvest days.
Topics vary each week. This week the focus will be organic disease and pest controls — home remedies and plant maintenance. There also will be fresh watermelon and harvest during the Work and Learn.
To learn more about the MUSC Urban Farm visit www.musc.edu/urbanfarm or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/muscurbanfarm.
Employee Wellness events
- MUSC Employee Fitness Series: Join Katie Blaylock for a free strength and conditioning class from 12:15 – 12:45 p.m., July 18. To sign up, send your name and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. See MUSC Wellness Center membership desk upon arrival for sign-in and directions to the classroom.
- Worksite screening: The July 19 screening is valued at $350 and is available to employees with the State Health Plan for $15 (covered spouses can participate for $15). Employees and spouses without this insurance can participate for $42. To register, go to www.musc.edu/medcenter/health1st and click on Worksite Screening.
Contact Johnson at email@example.com for information on the Office of Health Promotion and Suzan Whelan at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about Employee Wellness. Events, speakers, classes, or any other ideas are welcome.