For 50 years, the month of March has been recognized as National Nutrition Month – where the focus is on learning how to develop healthful eating and physical activity habits. How does this relate to occupational health and safety, you ask?
Believe it or not, good nutrition can have a positive impact on workers’ MSK health and productivity. Most of us know that unhealthful eating is a risk factor for obesity and other chronic diseases. Obesity and a poorly balanced diet can negatively impact bone and joint health, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Lack of sufficient water intake can lead to fatigue and decreased muscle strength.
When it comes to preventing MSK injuries or minimizing the impact of chronic MSK pain, the top modifiable lifestyle factor is nutrition. Healthful eating habits and hydration nourish the body by providing the right combination of nutrients and vitamins and minerals our bodies need to thrive.
What can you do to support workers in improving their nutritional intake and hydration?
Place a basket of healthy snacks in break rooms or common kitchens
Snack ideas include fresh fruit, single serving packages of nuts, granola bars or trail mix
If unable to make healthy snacks freely available, consider offering similar healthy options in vending machines or cafeterias
Provide access to drinking water at the worksite
Sponsor wellness or fitness challenges for workers to incentivize choosing healthier habits
Ensure workers have sufficient freedom for bathroom breaks
Healthy eating and proper hydration are components of an overall workplace health strategy. Onsite clinics are a well-rounded way to promote MSK health and wellbeing. Consider how these activities, provided by an onsite healthcare provider, can support your strategy:
Offer educational lunch and learns on a variety of topics, including nutrition and injury prevention
Be an expert resource for workers to brainstorm and problem solve with when it comes to physical and nutritional health
Facilitate fitness/wellness challenges
When combined with physical activity, better nutrition and hydration can lead to a healthier workforce.