All work and no working out
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All work and no working out

Do you often sit up in your chair at work and feel the muscles in your back ache from the hours spent in an uncomfortable, incorrect position? Or spend so many hours chasing a deadline that you have no time to drink a glass of water or go to the restroom?

mumbai Updated: Feb 21, 2012 01:57 IST
Pankti Mehta
Pankti Mehta
Hindustan Times

Do you often sit up in your chair at work and feel the muscles in your back ache from the hours spent in an uncomfortable, incorrect position? Or spend so many hours chasing a deadline that you have no time to drink a glass of water or go to the restroom?

Most professions have these health hazards in common. And then there are other professions where the work itself causes a kind of physical strain that is automatically detrimental to fitness.

Take 28-year-old Sanjay Manyal. A senior research analyst at a major financial services company, he monitors stocks from 10am to 3.30pm every day. This means that he cannot leave his desk for a second during these hours. And that's just half his workday.

"Before the market opens, we have two hours of meetings. After it shuts, there are meetings till 7.30pm," says Manyal. "Other than the short walks from one meeting to the next, I am always at a desk."

After five years of this routine, Manyal began to feel the strain of long hours of inactivity and poor posture coupled with the total lack of exercise.

"I now work out three or four times a week to stay fit," he says.

According to fitness experts, understanding how your work life is affecting your fitness levels is vital.

"With work being such a big part of our lives in today's competitive world, diet and exercise by themselves may not be enough to guarantee fitness. You need to also tailor your exercise and diet regimes to undo any ill effects that your specific line of work may be having on your body," says fitness trainer Deanne Pandey. "For instance, a stock analyst - or anyone who spends long hours at a desk - should do stretches and small exercises during the workday to ease the strain on the muscles and to introduce an element of activity into their schedule."

"They should also step out in the open for fresh air every now and then," says fitness guru Mickey Mehta.

Vikas Seth, 38, Corporate executive chef, Dish Hospitality.

Has been cooking for 20 years.Vikas Seth currently manages Dish Hospitality ventures such as Mexican restaurant Sancho's in Khar and lounge bar Aurus at Juhu.

Seth often spends more than 12 hours on his feet, in hot kitchens filled with steam, with moisture sometimes also entering his shoes.

"You barely get a break on busy days, and your meal times are skewed, because you usually eat only after the restaurant shuts," he says.

"Plus, having to develop new products constantly means you have to experiment and taste several different combinations, and this can cause severe weight gain and allied issues," says Seth.

The steam, meanwhile, can cause breathing disorders. "I've heard that respiratory problems are common among chefs. There's no fresh air in the kitchen," he says.

To stay fit, Seth monitors his non-work diet carefully, starting with a cereal breakfast. "I try to skip lunch because I know I'll have to eat through the rest of the day," he says. "I've also found a balance between 'tasting' and 'eating', which is essential in my line of work."

The right shoes are very important, adds Seth. "Chefs should never compromise on that, because there's a lot of standing and heavy lifting involved in our work."

Expert speak
Since chefs are constantly near heat, they should keep themselves hydrated with lots of water and green tea. A fluid-rich diet will also help counter all that they have to eat. Chefs should have a fibre-rich diet, including green vegetables and sprouts, to keep their calories in check. They should do yoga regularly to stretch themselves out, since their job involves a lot of bending, lifting and standing.
-Mickey Mehta, Fitness guru

Dr Rujuta Mehta, 42
Surgeon practising for 12 years now

Orthopaedic paediatric surgeon Rujuta Mehta had to overhaul her lifestyle when she was diagnosed with hypertension three years ago, thanks to a high-stress job with long working hours and not enough time for proper meals.

"It's actually quite common for surgeons even in their 30s to have high blood pressure, hypertension, and other stress-related ailments," she says.

Mehta works 10 to 12 hours a day, but frequently has days when she works 21 hours at a stretch. "Earlier, my meals would consist of whatever was quickest and closest - a sandwich from the canteen or some sort of packaged food. Now, I'm a lot more careful and carry a full, balanced meal to work."

Mehta also makes it a point to get physical exercise into her routine, waking up at 5 am so she can take a one-hour walk every morning.

"I meditate too. I used to be a dancer before work took over and I lost touch with physical activity along the way. I feel much better now that I have brought these changes into my life," says Mehta.

Expert speak
Surgeons, who need a strong spine and spend a large part of their time bending, must avoid exercises like crunches that involve bending. Their back muscles need strengthening, so core strength and balance exercises are very important. Doctors should also eat low-calorie, energy-dense foods like berries, sweet potato, smoothies and nuts. -Deanne Pandey, FitnessTrainer

Vinod sawant, 52
Senior police inspector, has been a policeman for 25 years

Vinod Sawant, 52, arrives at the police station at 9 am every day and stays indefinitely, usually till at least 11 pm. His weekly holiday is Sunday, but since he works at the Colaba police station, he is usually called in on special security duty at Gateway of India or to guard VVIPs living at the luxury hotels in the area.

"Health problems are a given," he says. "With this erratic lifestyle, working long hours without a break in a high-stress environment, we face high blood pressure, erratic sugar levels, even heart problems. There's a lot of pressure at this job, which affects you mentally as well."

While Sawant is dealing with high blood pressure, he tries to exercise every day. "I walk 8km every evening, from the police station to RC Church and back," he says. "I strongly advise anyone in the police force to do some form of physical activity every day, but many live in far-flung areas and travel hours to work so they never find the time."

Sawant is also more careful about his diet now, and urges his team to bring lunch from home. "My dinner time is never fixed, since I eat only after I get home. This can be any time at night," he says. "So I carry home-cooked lunch with me as well. In a job like this, where you are accountable to so many people, you can't afford to be unfit. It's your responsibility to take care of yourself."

Expert speak
Since policemen need to be extremely fit to do their job well, they should watch their diet closely. They should have wheat and jowar rotis for strength, and lots of dry fruits throughout the day. They should stay away from heavy, greasy food, since such food makes you sluggish.

They should consider martial arts as a fitness regimen, which will improve their mental alertness levels and help them de-stress.-Deanne Pandey, Fitness Trainer

Kenneth Manik, 24
Call centre employee from 2010

The worst part about his job, says Manik, is the changing shift timings.

For two years, he's had to shift weekly between time zones - working for US-based clients from 5.30pm to 2.30am one week, and for Australian clients, from 6 am to 3 am, the next.

"It's a tough life," he says. "There are multiple health issues involved, the first and most important being lack of sleep. That causes stress, everyone is always drowsy. Because of the odd hours, your meals and digestion are also affected."

Conscious of this effect on his body and to try and stay in as good shape as possible, Manik makes it a point to work out three or four times a week, usually before the night shift.

"It also helps release stress for me," he says. "I know a lot of call center employees who take to smoking and drinking for that reason, which obviously has adverse effects on your health. With a monotonous job, skewed sleep patterns and sitting at a desk through the whole day, you really need a physical outlet to keep you energised."

Expert speak
Call centre employees should exercise before work. Since it's a monotonous job, bouncing exercises like jumping jacks would help them stay alert. They must avoid fast food and watch their posture, since they're in their seats for most of the day. -Mickey Mehta, Fitness guru

First Published: Feb 21, 2012 01:54 IST