4 Ways Your Job is Hurting Your Health (and What to Do About It)

We work a lot in the U.S., and it's making us sick. Fight back with these health hacks.

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Photo by Sam Edwards/Getty Images

If you feel like a zombie after a long day at the office, it could be because your job is taking a serious toll on your health. For many of us, the "40-hour workweek" is more a figure of speech than a reality. Half of Americans work 47 hours a week, according to Gallup—more time than our counterparts in many developed nations, including the United Kingdom and Japan—and all that time at the office just isn't good for us. Here's how your job could be damaging your health—and how to fight back.

Counteract your commute

Long commutes can lead to neck and back problems, obesity, higher blood pressure, heart attacks—even loneliness and unhappiness, according to number of recent studies. Your commute might even be hurting your relationship, according to a new study by researchers at Umea University in Sweden. Couples with one partner who commutes for more than 45 minutes are 40 percent more likely to divorce than those with shorter commutes. 

The fix? Eating more fruits and veggies and decreasing sodium intake to a maximum of 1,500 milligrams per day can help control your blood pressure. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and limiting alcohol consumption are also key, according to the Mayo Clinic. As for the marriage risk? Check out 10 ways to make your marriage divorceproof.

Stretch your legs                              

Spending eight-plus hours sitting at a desk has been linked to obesity—and the more you sit, the higher your risk of developing certain cancers­—including colon and lung cancer. Worse, even exercising regularly can't undo the sedentary damage, research suggests.

The fix? Consider standing while you work, which burns roughly 50 calories per hour more than sitting—as many as 400 calories in one eight-hour day. Take frequent strolls around the office, try walking during meetings, and consider using a standing desk for part of each day. 

Stop the stress

More than one third of us are stressed during the work day and 39 percent blame long hours. That, in turn, has been linked to inactivity, more smoking, and fewer check-ups, The Atlantic reports. Plus, chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, sleep problems, digestive issues, and memory impairment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The fix? Stress management can go a long way to creating a happier, healthier life. Start by eating better and exercising more. Practice taking deep breaths when you start feeling overwhelmed. And don't forget to have a laugh—or at least a smile, which can counteract anxiety, research suggests.

Don't sacrifice sleep       

Check your email in bed? You’re not alone. Half of us are logging on before sleep and 44 percent are plugged in on  vacation. All this leads to sleep loss, which in turn creates anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and other health risks.

The fix? All light can interfere with the release of melatonin​, the hormone that helps regulate sleep, but blue light (the kind that comes from smart phones and computers) is by far the worst. So if you're having trouble sleeping, banish screens of all kinds from the bedroom and reach for a book instead. Still having sleep problems? Cut back on the booze before bed, exercise more (just not right before bed), limit your naps to 30 minutes, and skip that snooze button, since going back to sleep after waking in the morning can make you feel groggier.