This Is Where Your Employees Are Looking to Improve Their Health (and It’s Not Pretty)

August 5, 2015

As an employer, you have a vested interest in the quality of your employees’ health. Healthy employees are in the office more often, they’re more productive, and they’re less stressed. Highly stressed employees, on the other hand, take almost twice as many sick days per year.

Even so, it’s easy for employees to miss the mark in terms of healthy living. Consumers are constantly bombarded by magic pills, weight-loss supplements, and crash diets as quick, easy means to getting healthy. These misconceptions are backed by advice from pseudo-experts like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, who claim to have consumers’ best interests at heart.

But taking health advice from a daytime talk show is like taking relationship advice from a soap opera: You’re probably not going to get the results you desire.

Dr. Oz recently came under fire for promoting garcinia cambogia extract diet pills for dubious health benefits — claiming they were the “holy grail” of fat loss, even though little evidence exists to back up his claims. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity in 2011, researchers determined that the overall benefits of the extract were negligible after reviewing a dozen randomized trials of the supplement.

Similarly, Dr. Phil has been criticized by the larger medical community for some of the recommendations he’s given on his show that perpetuate the notion that people with mental illnesses have the mental capacities to “get over it.” Yet studies have shown this lack of empathy negatively impacts a patient’s successful recovery.

These popular shows have to produce audience-grabbing programs on a weekly basis. They are designed to excite, scare, and interest you — often at the expense of accuracy.

No Shortcuts to Healthy Living

Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil aren’t going to boost their ratings by telling viewers to eat their veggies. These shows are ultimately sources of entertainment, but when consumers start using them as their main source of information, the harmful effects begin to show.

Health recommendations must be properly studied, vetted, and proven through peer-reviewed research. If networks are trying to churn out content like crazy, there probably isn’t a lot of care for the consumers behind it. What’s more, there aren’t any easy shortcuts to health. Healthy minds and bodies require dedication, patience, and hard work — not to mention good nutrition, stress relief, and, yes, a little bit of exercise.

Combating Bad Advice With High-Quality Workplace Wellness

Because employees are bombarded by bad advice outside the office, it’s essential to deliver evidence-based, peer-reviewed advice — as well as support — in workplace wellness programs. The secret to healthy living isn’t in extreme new trends, but in mastering the tried-and-true basics of physical and mental health — and by creating healthy habits that become daily routines. Here are five science-backed health practices you’ll probably never see on “Dr. Oz.” They may not be as sexy as crash diet formulas or exotic super fruits, but they’re proven to improve health.

  1. Eat whole foods. When researchers at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center compared the most popular diets today (e.g., vegan, Paleo, low-carb, etc.), they found that the most beneficial diets are simply those that emphasize eating whole grains, healthy proteins and fats, and lots and lots of — you guessed it — fresh veggies. The consensus is that processed foods — from white bread to fast food to TV dinners — should be avoided.
  2. Drink water. Hydration is very important for the body: It gives you energy, supports your joints, aids in digestion, and helps prevent overeating, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because soda and energy drinks are extremely unhealthy, switching to water is a key step in improving physical health.
  1. Get plenty of rest. Lack of sleep isn’t doing the body any favors, and it can actually sabotage diet and exercise routines. A recent Harvard University study found that chronic sleep loss can actually contribute to weight gain, increased blood pressure, and a weakened immune system — all of which can translate to more sick days and stressed employees.
  1. Balance diet with exercise. When it comes to losing weight, Americans tend to overestimate the value of exercise and underestimate the value of healthy eating. But a healthy lifestyle begins in the kitchen. A 2014 study by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that exercise alone wasn’t enough to lose weight and keep it off. For best results, diet and exercise must work together.

    And don’t assume you have to run a marathon or join a sexy gym to get some physical activity in. Basic movement is the best medicine — simply taking short walks five times a week can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

  1. Don’t neglect mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Unfortunately, a stigma still surrounds mental health issues, according to the World Psychiatric Association. Give your employees access to resources and support so they can seek the help they might need to address their mental health issues. Stress, obesity, and poor habits can exacerbate problems with mental health.

As an employer, you have to fight the tide of bad advice by providing employees with science-backed information. A group of happy, healthy employees will create a better work environment for you — and a better life for them beyond work. If you’re already using a wellness program or considering one, look at how success is defined in the program. The proof is in the science.

Do you want to create positive change and help your employees access the right information? Visit our demo page to sign up for a demo of the LifeDojo corporate wellness program.

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