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Five exercise habits for a healthy life
Spine Health
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Wellness at work
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Your blood has the power to heal

24 January 2019

 

Using blood in facials and to curb the signs of ageing, stimulate hair growth and rehabilitate sports injuries and even your sex life may sound obscene, but it is gaining traction amongst women and men alike. Yair Edinburg, General Practitioner at Ubuntu family Health Centre, explains why this somewhat unique treatment is worth a shot.

“Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) facials, have been made famous by Hollywood celebs that are usually amongst the early adopters of new aesthetic treatments. Since PRP facials were first televised, the technology has come a long way. PRP treatments are not only different in the way that they are done nowadays, but their benefits in a range of applications are also proven.

“PRP is now used for anti-ageing and skin rejuvenation treatments, such as for treating burns, scars and stretch marks. It is also used for hair rejuvenation and restoration; joint and muscle rehabilitation, and also for improving sexual health,” says Edinburg.

According to Edinburg, it is the high concentration of growth factors in PRP that differentiates it from any other serum or treatment available on the market.

“PRP is such a hot topic because of the high concentration of growth factors it contains. Growth factors are proteins that play a fundamental role in healing and rejuvenation. These growth factors also mimic the body’s natural wound healing process.

“There are many serums that incorporate growth factors in their formulations, but these are often bio-engineered in a lab. With PRP we are able to use growth factors from your own body which are immediately recognisable by the skin’s cells and it leaves very little chance of irritation.

“By micro-needling PRP into the skin, we are able to jump start the cells to function as ‘normal’ again. Healthy skin cells also produce sufficient collagen and elastin that keep skin firm and supple. What you will see is skin that is visibly rejuvenated, evener and radiant as the growth factors stimulate healthy cell turnover.”

The benefits of PRP for facial rejuvenation are easy to see and are well documented. Skin has a more even tone and texture; shallow wrinkles and crow’s feet are smoothed, and superficial scars, acne marks and stretch marks are minimized.

However, PRP is also coming into its own in the treatment of hair rejuvenation. PRP injected into the scalp helps to release active growth factors to naturally stimulate the development of new follicles and promote new blood vessel development to provide the hair with the nutrients and oxygen needed to grow. This natural, non-surgical procedure is suitable for men and women and can be safely combined with hair treatment medication for fuller, healthier hair.

PRP has also become an inviting solution for people with sports injuries. Research has shown that PRP can help heal and even regenerate damaged and ageing tissue in the treatment of a range of injuries to joints, ligaments and tendons.  Recovery times can also be shorter than with traditional treatment methods, and in some cases provide patients facing surgery with an alternative.

Activated PRP has also shown to help improve sexual health by encouraging healing to aged or damaged tissue of the sex organs. Some of the benefits include increased sexual arousal; elimination of discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse; increased lubrication; relief from urinary incontinence, and regaining sensation that was lost during childbirth.

Edinburg says PRP can be administered in various ways, with micro-needling being the most comfortable and result-driven. Before the treatment starts, a vile of blood is drawn from the patient. The sample is then placed in a centrifuge where the platelets are separated from the blood. A yellow concentrate of platelet-rich plasma forms and it’s applied to the face after micro-needling. Needling creates minute channels for the PRP so it can really reach the deeper layers of the skin and get to work.   Applied during a micro-needling procedure, the needles help push platelets into the skin.  Alternatively, platelets can be injected into the skin by means of a mesotherapy procedure.

“For firming, plumping and freshening skin, PRP is worth it for achieving that elusive no-filter glow. However, PRP is a particularly exciting treatment for a whole range of issues that go beyond aesthetics. We have seen great results in patients’ recovery from injuries and seen others’ sex lives transformed with PRP treatment. To have hair growing again, scars reduced or skin glowing is a tremendous confidence booster for patients, while having pain relieved and getting back to normal activity is both a physical and emotional benefit for people coming back from an injury. Your own blood has the power to heal,” concludes Edinburg.

Advice for happy holiday running

3 December 2018

 

A lot of runners find it hard to hang up their shoes while they’re on holiday. They need their running fix and of course, there’s the lure of uncharted territory. Whether it is on the road, the beach or trails, holiday running could require a shift in strategy if you’re not accustomed to the terrain.

“Your feet, as well as the rest of the ligaments, tendons and muscles in the bio-mechanical chain that is recruited when you run can be impacted by sudden changes in training or terrain. Running on the beach, for instance, is far more intense than running on the road,” says Greg Robinson, Podiatrist at Ubuntu Family Health Centre.

Citing a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, he says; “Beach running takes 1.6 times more energy than running on the road. This is great because it will burn more of the festive season calories you will be consuming. However, running on the beach also requires your muscles and tendons to work much harder due to the sand’s unpredictable surface. This can cause strain increase the risk of injury.”

He cautions against running on the hard sand next to the water. While it might be easier to run on, the sand next to the water is usually on an incline. Running on an incline in the same direction all the time will put stress on the one hip and knee due to the inclination. On the other hand, running on soft, deep sand to quickly will put strain on the calves.

“If you are new to running on the beach, it is important to allow your body to get used to the terrain. On the first day, just walk to get used to the sand. When you are ready to run after a day or two, start with short, easy runs.

“If you are new to running on the beach it is important to allow your body to get used to the new terrain and sensation. On sand, you’ll want a shorter stride, quicker turnover and more arm pumping to stay balanced.”

He adds that running on the beach without shoes requires experience and he advises runners new to beach running not to go for their first run without shoes. Running barefoot on sand can lead to plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, or even Achilles injuries because feet don’t get support from running shoes. Muscles stretch longer than they would on a harder surface. Instead, wear light running shoes with a mesh that doesn’t let sand in.

“Your regular running shoe may be fine. You can’t completely avoid getting sand in your shoes so wear socks that prevent blisters or put some Vaseline or similar products on your feet before running on the beach.”

Robinson advocates trail running, which can be a refreshing change-up for road runners.

“Trail running puts less pressure on your bones and joints than hard surfaces such as the road or pavement. The uneven terrain forces you to vary your stride length and direction, which increases your range of lateral movement. This is helpful for strengthening your core stability, balance and coordination because your whole body is constantly adjusting. Trail running can help improve your hill fitness, as you are generally more likely to encounter more hills when running on off-road tracks. Running on unstable surfaces improves proprioception, which is the awareness of the position of the body, as well as your balance.

“Take it easy and focus your eyes on the track ahead of you.  For the majority of smooth gravel trails, footpaths and grass, your road running shoes would be adequate, provided the grip isn’t worn. But, for more extreme trails with mud or boggy ground, you will need to invest in some trail shoes. They have better grip while being more flexible to allow your feet to adapt to the uneven terrain. They do have less cushioning though and might feel strange when you first try them out. They should fit snugly around the midfoot to keep them in place while being wider in the forefoot to give your toes space to splay out and grip the trail.”

For people hitting the road for the first time or switching from trails to the road, he has this advice: “Try to take short, light steps so that your feet do not extend too far out in front of the body. Aim to have your knee above your foot and your shin vertical as your foot touches the ground. Proper form reduces the risk of injury. Good posture is essential for good form. Stay upright and lean forward slightly to propel your body forward. Make sure that you do not lean forward or backwards from your waist. Your back should be straight.

“It is important to ensure that your shoes are roadworthy. If they are worn out, are ill-fitting or you have pain during or after a run, then you should visit your podiatrist or a specialist running shop for advice.”

He concludes with these tips:

  • Warm up before you run. A warm-up can consist of a light walk or slow run before exercise.
  • Use proper running socks that wick the moisture away and keep the feet dry. This can help guard against blisters.
  • Strengthen your feet:
    • Towel stretch – Sit on the floor with your legs out straight. Take a towel and place it around your toes. Pull the towel toward you. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat.
    • Towel Lifts - Sit in a chair and place a towel on the floor. Try to lift the towel with your big toe and little toes. Repeat five times and then switch feet.
    • Stand with your toes on a step and your heels off the edge. Slowly lower your heels down, hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then lift your heels to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
    • Toe Stretch - Sit in a chair, with feet on the floor, and spread your toes apart. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times.
    • Foot Roll - To improve proprioception and loosen the tissues on the bottoms of your feet. Take a ball (golf, tennis ball or frozen water bottle), and roll it back and forth from your toes to your heels.

Five exercise habits for a healthy life

19 November 2018

 

A body that is moving is headed in the right direction. That’s because moving daily is vital for mental health, strength, vitality, emotional well-being, a good metabolism and even for healthier skin. By moving a bit more every day, bodies simply function better. It begs the question: “Why are so many people inactive?”

“People who don’t exercise can get overwhelmed by the idea of exercising. Perhaps they feel they have left it too long and they don’t know where to start. Maybe they are a little overweight and don’t have the confidence to get out there. Perhaps they have time constraints that are stopping them from exercising.

“There are many reasons, or excuses, for not exercising. But, for every reason not to, there are many more reasons to exercise. It starts with the decision to take the first step and then it is like a ripple effect. As you begin to feel better, more energized, you will want to move more. Moving then becomes a daily habit,” says Juanita Bouwer, a Biokineticist at Ubuntu Family Health Centre in Sandton.

Perhaps the most compelling reasons to exercise are that it boosts energy, stamina and improves mood thanks to the release of endorphins. In today’s frantically paced world, good energy levels and emotional well-being are crucial to managing stress and coping with the daily demands of life. These effects are felt with every exercise session. Then there are the biological reasons to get moving, which perhaps aren’t felt immediately – or even noticeable – such as improved circulation and better flow of lymph.

“And of course there is weight loss, improved muscle tone, enhanced mobility, better heart function, improved digestion and elimination. These may take time to show, but if you keep moving, you will get there,” says Bouwer.

She says people should make time to move every day, even if it is a 20-minute walk with the dog after work, taking the stairs instead of the lift at the office and parking further away from the entrance to the mall.

“Family obligations or a busy work schedule might make you feel like you don’t have time to exercise. But all it takes is 20 to 30 minutes a day. Set the alarm earlier in the morning and walk or attend an exercise class at the gym before you leave for work or before the rest of the family wakes up. Make the decision to make time,” Bouwer encourages.

She offers some tips to get moving – and keep moving:

  • Diarise your exercise sessions and keep the appointment. If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.
  • Find an exercise partner. You are less likely to ditch your exercise session if you know you are meeting someone.
  • Remember there are different strokes for different folks. Find an activity that you really enjoy. If you hate running on a treadmill indoors, there is no point in forcing yourself to do it. Joining a group that walk or run outdoors might be more up your alley. That way, you are more inclined to stick to a regular routine and reap the benefits. Weekends are loaded with different events, from trail running to obstacle course runs. Find what makes you tick!
  • Set a (realistic) goal. When you have a goal and you set out the steps you need to take to achieve it, it evolves into a plan. Maybe there is a bucket list event that you have always wanted to take part in. Determine what is needed to achieve it and get going. Goals will be different for each person but the feeling of accomplishment in achieving a goal, regardless of what it is, is the same for everyone – awesome!
  • Take notice of how you feel. Regular physical activity brings about such a wide spectrum of benefits – a better quality of life, weight loss and stress management. The world is your oyster in this regard. When you notice welcome changes, write them down. When you feel averse to exercising, go and look at the changes for the better that you have noted since you got active.
  • Listen to your body. A dreaded muscle strain or a distant niggle that has become much more pronounced, can halt your progress in its tracks.  Seek professional advice quickly if you have pain or a strain that is stopping you from moving. Visit a physiotherapist or biokineticist to address the cause of the problem as soon as you can. You might need to focus on more specific strength training to prevent it from recurring. On the upside, this approach might just improve your performance of your chosen activity, leading to even higher levels of enjoyment.
  • Don’t overdo it too quickly. Build up slowly, to exercising for longer periods or more often during the week. If you suddenly start exercising six days a week after years of inertia, you will become overwhelmed and might give up altogether when you realize it is not sustainable.
  • Remember to include rest days in your weekly routine. Rest days are critical to replenish fatigued muscles, preventing burnout and injuries and it makes for a happier (athletic) version of you. Come to the next training session, you will have plenty of energy to push yourself a little bit further and achieve more.

Why spine health must be protected at all costs

19 October 2018

 

The spine is the backbone of the body, the anchor of the skeletal system, the protector of the spinal cord which is the communication pathway for the nervous system, the brain, and in fact, the entire body. When the spine is injured or not working properly, quality of life is hampered and everyday activities, even swallowing, can be affected. Spinal health should be protected at all costs.

Carmen Andrews, a Physiotherapist with a special interest in Orthopedic Manipulative Therapy and Sports Injuries at Ubuntu Family Health Centre, explains: “Your spine is an integral part of the axial skeleton which is the central part of the skeleton that supports your trunk and protects your vital organs.

“Within the axial skeleton, the role of the spine is especially important as it holds your head stable so that you can interact with the world, protects your brain by providing shock absorption, protects the spinal cord, and holds your trunk up against gravity. The trunk can then provide a base for your limbs, in turn keeping it stable so that your limbs can move freely when driving or typing on a computer, or by moving power from your lower limbs to your upper limbs as in a golf swing or tennis serve.

“When you hurt your back, not only is your ability to move affected, possibly stopping you from doing the things you love to do, but stress on the spine is immensely painful. When you consider the involvement of your spine in everything that you do every single day, from sitting and sleeping to playing your favourite sports, it is easy to see the great importance of spinal health.”

She adds that because the body works as a unit, the effect of compensating for a sore, stiff or weak back can have a knock-on effect to muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. There are no areas where movement impediments will not have a knock-on effect. For example, a big toe that cannot bend upwards is likely to cause a change in the way a person walks and will affect the movement in the hips, pelvis and lower back, which in turn causes a change of loading of the muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments and connective tissue in this chain.

“This can work in the opposite direction too. If you have areas of stiffness or weakness in your spine, other areas of your spine, pelvis, hips or shoulders will have to change the way they move.  The muscles that work in these movement systems will have to manage the load change and the movements within the joints will change. In both cases if you keep moving in the same compensatory pattern for all your daily activities, which research shows is what the body tends to do, overuse sprains or strains can easily happen.

“This is why it is always recommended to deal with any stiffness, pain or injury as soon as possible, before it can cause compensation issues that could end up causing pains and strains in other areas of your body as well,” says Andrews.

To prevent injury to your spine or further damage, it’s important to strengthen your spine with appropriate exercise. Stretching daily and making sure that your posture is correct when standing, sitting, exercising and even sleeping can help protect spine health.

Andrews’ top two tips for keeping your spine healthy;

  • Develop your PQ (physical IQ). Tune into your body. Pay attention to your physical well-being and your experience of pain, just as you would your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Throughout your life take care of injuries, stiffness and even mild but nagging problems as they happen.
  • Move, move, move!  Movement refreshes joint fluid and nourishes cartilage. Varying pressures from movement keep discs healthy. Maintain flexibility in your spine by moving it through its full range of movement daily. Bend to touch your toes, bend backwards, stretch up, bend to the left and right, give your hips a twist.

She stresses that parents should not ignore children who complain of back pain or headaches; “When you injure your back playing sport at school or through poor posture when you are young, a 'weak spot' or nagging pain can remain, setting the scene for chronic back or other joint problems to develop over time. These are much harder to treat later on.  If your child complains of pain, get it checked out and treat it early.

“Make sure your child has a suitable chair and that their desk is the correct height when doing homework. Children are also required to carry heavy bags between classes at school. Make sure that they do not carry a heavy bag on one shoulder. This can lead to imbalances and back problems.”

She concludes with some words of encouragement for those who are battling with back pain; “Back injuries can heal and pain does get better. Yes, you will have to work at it; putting in time, effort and attention.

“Pain scientists are starting to think differently about pain and its causes. How you think about pain can change the way it feels. Stress, fear, emotional fatigue, physical fatigue and your general mental state can impact how your brain processes and interprets your pain, and therefore affects how you experience it.

“Work with someone who can guide you to regain control over your pain and fear, and teach you to move with confidence again.”

Depression, stress and anxiety in children – what to look out for

11 September 2018

 

Mental disorders in children are a growing concern in South Africa, with the stresses of modern daily life, the demands to excel in school and at sport, divorce and exposure to violence taking their toll on the country’s young people. It is estimated that about 20% of children and adolescents have a mental health disorder and approximately half of all mental illness and substance-related problems start at the age of 14 years.1

According to Lwanele Khasu, Clinical Psychologist at Ubuntu Family Health Centre, signs of depression, anxiety and stress are also seen in much younger children.

“We live in a highly demanding, highly pressured society. Children are under immense pressure to succeed at school and on the sports field. But they are also exposed to high levels of violence, either directly or indirectly. They hear their parents talking about robberies in their neighbourhoods, they hear of people they know who have been hi-jacked, and they listen to news about murders and political issues. They absorb this information and it can begin to weigh them down.

“Many children experience fighting between parents, while others are acutely aware of financial stress in the home. The result is that many of South Africa’s children, much like many South African adults, are living with post-traumatic stress. We see it in children as young as two. Some mental disorders, such as Bipolar, Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be evident from earlier than that, sometimes even within the first year.”

There are a number of mental health disorders that can affect children. Some may affect their developmental milestones, intellectual ability, motor skills, and psychological maturity. Khasu says it is important to be aware of signs and symptoms from a child’s early years so that interventions can be taken early on, when they are most effective.

“Children and adults can develop the same mental health conditions but they are often expressed differently in children. For example, depressed children will often show more irritability and aggression than depressed adults, who typically show sadness. Parents and caregivers need to be observant of their children’s behaviour, especially if there are any noticeable changes such as mood swings, irritability or withdrawal.”

Other signs that parents should look out for include

  • Restless and an inability to sit still to complete tasks
  • Forgetfulness and losing items at school like a jersey or books
  • Sudden demotivation with school work or lack of interest to play with friends, even though they liked it before
  • Unusual changes in behaviour or personality, such as fighting, bullying other kids or expressing a thoughts of hurting others
  • Disobedience in the home or at school
  • Sudden fears, frights, or anxiety. This can also include in an inability to sleep or eruption of nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating which might lead to poor performance in school.
  • A sudden loss of appetite. Frequent vomiting or use of laxatives could also indicate an eating disorder.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches. These might be evident rather than shows of sadness or anxiety.
  • Self-injury and mutilation such as cutting or burning themselves.
  • Using drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.

“If parents or caregivers notice any signs and symptoms in children that continue for longer than two weeks, they should seek help. It is almost certainly not just a passing phase,” stresses Khasu.

She concludes with this advice to parents: “Take the time to sit and talk with your child. Ask them if anything has happened to them that might be causing them to behave uncharacteristically. Remember though that children often find it difficult to open up to their parents so it is important to be patient and supportive. Create opportunities to relax and have fun with your child, praise their strengths and abilities. You might find they are more willing to talk because they are more at ease in these contexts.

“You should also consider talking to your child’s teacher and even their close friends to see if they have noticed any changes. If through these interactions you find that there is cause for concern, don’t delay contacting your doctor or a psychologist. You will need to help your child to make sense of why they need to go for therapy or take medicine. Mental illness often carries a stigma so you have to help your child understand that there is no harm in seeking help. In fact, it will benefit them now and in the long term if they have support and have appropriate coping strategies.

“Some people can go most of their lives without being treated and they can manage with the pressures of their lives, but others are not so fortunate.”

 

References:

  1. S Paruk, M. C., & E Karim, M. C. (2016, June 1). Update on adolescent mental health. Retrieved from SAMJ: http://www.samj.org.za/index.php/samj/article/viewFile/10943/7387

Takes steps towards health for better chances of conceiving

30 July 2018

A woman’s health and wellbeing is inextricably linked with her reproductive health. Stress, poor diet, inactivity, being over or underweight and nutritional status can affect her ability to fall pregnant. In South Africa, thousands of women struggle with infertility which is the inability to fall pregnant or maintain a pregnancy after a year of trying.

“It can be heart wrenching for women as well as their partners who want so badly to become parents, but they can’t. There is a wide range of physical and emotional factors that can affect fertility, and many of these can be tackled with a closer focus on overall health.

“Protecting your reproductive system and overall health not only supports your chances of falling pregnant, but it will also ensure that when you do fall pregnant, your body is in the best possible condition to support your growing baby,” says Elise Barron RD (SA) at the Ubuntu Family Health Centre.

Women and the contribution they make to their families, community and society as a whole is the underpinning theme for Women’s Month at Ubuntu Family Health Centre, which is bringing back the notion of humanity and togetherness; where good old fashioned values and care is core to its doctors’ and patients’ relationships.

“There is no better time than the present to put some emphasis on women’s health and encourage them to take a few steps to improve their chances of falling pregnant,” smiles Barron.

She says that since women are born with the total number of eggs they will ever have, it becomes increasingly important as they age for the quality of their remaining eggs to be high.

“An egg requires good hormonal balance, healthy cell membranes, energy and protection from free radicals. All of these can be provided with good nutrition. Opting for green leafy veggies as well as fruits and vegetables of all colours will equip the body with essential micronutrients. Whole grains and complex carbohydrates as well as lean proteins, including vegetable proteins from beans, nuts, seeds and tofu, should form the basis of your diet.

“While you are preparing to fall pregnant, it is also more necessary to increase your intake of mono unsaturated fats and foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Good sources of Omega 3 include avocados, almonds, trout and sardines amongst others.”

Barron warns that certain types of food can increase free radicals which can actually speed up the ageing of egg and sperm cells, causing chromosomal damage.

“You should avoid highly processed foods such as cold meats and foods rich in sugars and fats like cakes, sweets, pastries and other processed carbohydrate foods. Also, do not eat foods that have been burned, such as overly charred meat.”

Barron concedes that it can be difficult to ensure you are getting the right amounts of the most important vitamins and minerals from food alone. As such, she advises supplementing with a good quality multivitamin and mineral complex. When trying to conceive, a folic acid supplement is a must.

According to Barron, weight is becoming a more common factor in infertility as the rates of overweight and obesity are rising in South Africa.

“We see it often, where after losing weight, a previously overweight woman has suddenly fallen pregnant. It is important to consider your weight as a factor if you are struggling to conceive. Being over or even underweight can interrupt normal menstrual cycles and disrupt or even stop ovulation altogether. If you do not ovulate, you cannot fall pregnant. You should aim for a Body Mass Index of between 18.5 and 24,” she advises, adding that excessive weight in men can also lead to reduced sperm counts and affect his partner’s chances of conceiving.

Stress is often touted for its far reaching impact on general wellbeing, health and fertility. And, as modern day lifestyles have become faster paced, more frenetic and more stressful, so the number of couples battling to conceive, particularly in urban areas, has steadily increased.

“Stress depletes the body of vital nutrients. We’ve all experienced a cold or infection during times of high stress. It’s the body’s way of saying, ‘hey slow down’. If your body is depleted of nutrients and you are fatigued, it can affect your reproductive system. An increase in stress hormones can also interfere with ovulation in women and sperm production in men.

“Look at ways of reducing your daily stress. Exercise is an excellent way to bring down your stress levels. Find an activity that you enjoy doing and make it part of your lifestyle. Whether it is a Pilates class, a 5 km run after work or even a walk with the dog, exercise is extremely beneficial to physical, emotional and mental well-being. If you are exercising and still feeling stressed, consider seeking advice on stress management techniques,” concludes Barron.

Creating a culture of health in the workplace

9 July 2018

Employee health and wellness is inextricably linked with work productivity. The conundrum is that with the amount of time people spend at their desks in a closed office each day, the working environment can have a potentially detrimental impact on their wellbeing which in turn impacts job performance.

“Closed office environments, stress, long hours, the sedentary nature of the typical office job, limited access to healthy food at work, limited exposure to natural light and fresh air, and even the choice of desks and chairs impact employee wellbeing.

“It is a vicious cycle where unhealthy work environments, create unhealthy employees who are expected to be productive, but find they can’t be,” says Dr. Yair Edinburg, General Practitioner and spokesperson for the Ubuntu Family Health Centre in Sandton.

He says it is important for companies – and their employees – to understand the crucial link between employee wellness and a healthy, productive and well-functioning workforce.

“A lack of motivation leads to higher absenteeism and therefore poor productivity as well as additional stress on those taking on the responsibilities of the absent employee, it is thus time to look at the environment and open up the lines of communication. Often people have concerns or questions about their physical health, fitness and emotional wellbeing but they don’t have the motivation to consult with the relevant professionals about it. People also incur stress and trauma without the ability to recognize the symptoms and how it affects them or they may not know where to turn for help. These issues can weigh heavily on people, affecting their personal relationships, productivity and general quality of life.

“Managers should check in with their employees regularly to find out if they are struggling with anything, be it physically or emotionally. A culture of health requires passionate, engaged and positive leadership,” says Dr Edinburg.

He recommends establishing a wellness committee to help open the channels for employees to discuss their issues and concerns, get their hands on useful information, and access resources for improving their health and wellbeing.

“Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to point them in the right direction.”

Dr Edinburg offers these ideas for creating a healthy culture in the workplace:

  • Promote preventive care by offering on-site flu vaccinations, for example.
  • Recruit experts to speak to staff about aspects of nutrition, exercise, physical health and emotional wellbeing.
  • Encourage employees to take their lunch breaks. Everyone needs time away from their desks to regroup.
  • If there is a cafeteria or lunchroom, make sure healthy options are available.
  • Keep hygiene top of mind by for instance providing anti-bacterial soap in staff toilets and posters encouraging hand-washing.
  • Make fresh, cool drinking water accessible. This will help to encourage employees to drink more water and avoid the afternoon slump often brought on by dehydration.
  • Encourage employees to get up from their desks to walk and stretch for a few minutes a day. Sitting too long has a detrimental impact on the muscular skeletal system.
  • Recommend resources to help empower your employees make lasting changes to their lifestyles.
  • Implement programmes or incentives to entice employees to get active. This can be as simple as arranging entries to walking, running or cycling events for groups of employees to participate in.
  • Keep the thermostat temperatures on air conditioners within a 10-degree range of the temperature outside. Where possible allow windows to be opened to allow fresh air to circulate.