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Get Healthy - Stay Healthy

This was a post on the Business and Marketing Forum, and I thought it would make a good blog post too:

Is Health a relevant topic for a creative website? I would say Health Issues are very much ON TOPIC.

Since we are all either independent operators, small business owners or employees of others - health care and its costs are definitely a business issue. The costs are not only insurance and its associated controversies - but perhaps more importantly - the costs of not being healthy.

True, in our line of work, back injuries are common. I used to transport a 70 pound operating room tripod around the country as checked baggage and carry the full size broadcast camera in bulky Portabrace case on my shoulder and onto the plane - not good. Today, while the camera is smaller, the rolling golf case of gear is still 50 pounds and those wheels don't get it in and out of my car. And carrying a HDV camera case with batteries, mics and tapes on one shoulder and a laptop case in the other hand is still pretty bad for your back.

In the past 2 years, I have taken off maybe 2 days due to back pain, and 5 days for flu-like illness. Neither of them are entirely preventable. But prevention is the key to longevity. Here is my strategy, though I may need to bookmark this post for future reference:

1 - Drink a lot - of water that is. On days when I remember to drink two liters of fresh tap water and have a lot more energy after I leave work, am less grumpy and my urine is nice and clear. Hey this is a health topic and I work in a health related field so we don't mince words when it comes to bodily functions. Clear urine = clean plumbing.

2 - Eat on a regular schedule. First have breakfast before you leave the house. If you have a 6am call time or flight, the last thing you want to do is get up extra early and toast a bagel. If I have an early day ahead of me, I sometimes stop on the way home from work and get a pastry or some flavor of bagel that tastes good un-toasted to eat in the car. Also try to have a good portion of liquid in the AM to replenish your body post-sleep.

Eat healthy choices, shop the perimeter of the supermarket. Any food package that says it is healthy might be lying. Low fat pasta? Of course it's low fat, it's pasta. But fat does not make you fat. Carbs make you fat. Fat gives you heart disease. Food manufacturers are catching on to the fact that people are paying attention to what they are eating - that was not always the case.

3 - If you keep food at work try to find something either healthy or a small enough portion that it does not kill your diet. When I was in my 20's I stocked my desk drawer with Little Debbie products and juice boxes. Did not affect my waistline due to my high metabolism, but probably didn't make me any healthier. My parents both have diabetes, so I'd better watch my sugar intake if I know what's good for me.

4 - If you are sedentary a lot, and we all are, there are a few things to do. I agree about the good chair. I'm saving up. Our chairs are actually pretty adjustable, just need extra cushioning.
Try to sit with your back as straight as possible. Those chairs with a lot of levers let you lean way back or have a rocking chair. That's fine if you are playing video games or if you are the CEO. But for long duration computer work, you need all your parts in alignment. Feet flat on the floor, elbows on arm rests with fore-arms angled slightly down from the elbows. Thus the keyboard and mouse should be around the level of your navel.

Another problem with being sedentary is what happens on the inside. Sitting down a lot can cause problems down below. This is another reason to drink lots of water. One coffee a day may be ok, different people react differently to caffeine. I drink a lot of green tea in the winter. Constipation and other problems in that neighborhood can result from lots of sitting. Eat enough fiber to compensate. That should keep you running!

5. Sleeping. We too invested in a nice pillow top bed. My wife and I both sleep with our backs elevated 45 degrees and a good sized pillow under our knees. The pillow behind the back prevent snoring and helps drain the sinuses. The pillow under the knees keeps the spine in alignment which is good for the next day spent in a chair.

6. Exercise. Anything is better than nothing. In the warm weather I try to walk around the building a few times a day, or even into town a 1/2 mile. Even in the winter I will bundle up and go for a jaunt.
But even inside the office, I do a lot of MBWA so I am always in other offices. On days with a hot deadline for FedEx I move even faster.

As for actual cardio or resistance work - I have some dumbells in my bedroom. I'll do a dozen reps in the morning if I think of it. Stretching is very helpful. I ride my bike but not very often and should get more exercise overall. But don't be fooled into thinking you have to workout to exhaustion to keep weight off. When you run for your life, your body thinks it is being chased by a velociraptor and increases cortisol to give you that energy boost. That is not going to help you lose weight but it might improve your muscle tone. And when you eat a lot of carbs, your body thinks you are preparing for hibernation, so it stores that away as fat storage. Then when you don't hibernate or increase your activity level, but keep eating, the body keeps packing on the fat.

In other words, a healthy diet with deliberate food choices, moderation, and regular activity, strenuous or otherwise, is a good idea for all of us. If you have additional middle-aged health concerns like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, then all bets are off - do what they tell you to do.

7. Unplug. Have an outlet for spending time that is not your job. The COW for example - still sitting at a computer but using a different part of your brain. Have a hobby that is not shooting video. I go to the library every 2 weeks and get a suitcase full of books. Fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, travel books, biographies. Keep that brain running. I bought my obligatory economy stimulation 40" LCD television last year, and almost never use it. I also write short fiction and screenplays for my own amusement, but it is not work. Free your mind and the rest will follow.

Thanks for reading. Now get outside, find a kid, and throw something at him. With any luck, he'll throw it back.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2009 at 8:14:22 am

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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