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Three Health Myths Threatening Workers' Well-Being

07 October 2023

Did you know that 80 million adults in the United States are estimated to have limited or low health literacy? This finding, published by the National Library of Medicine, contributes to increasing challenges in managing chronic illnesses and self-care.


As the saying goes, we don’t know how much we don’t know.


Unfortunately, many adults overestimate their health IQ and continue to make detrimental decisions without even being aware of the issue. This preventable issue is not only a burden on the healthcare system but spills over into workplaces. Young recruits entering the workforce are not properly trained or educated on the skills needed to maintain their physical well-being or mental readiness to succeed long-term. This issue is especially prevalent in high-risk industries such as the military, healthcare, first responders, and construction. The issue only exacerbates with age as the cumulative effects of mismanaged self-care or neglecting personal wellness compile. Eventually, these issues go beyond impacting productivity and morale and become safety hazards.


This Health Literacy Month, we encourage human resource professionals, safety professionals, and employee wellness experts to help debunk three common myths we often see negatively impacting the well-being of workers supporting high-risk industries.


Myth #1: Fasting/Restricting Calories Are Good Weight Management Tools


Severe caloric restriction (restricting caloric intake below the basal metabolic rate) and in more recent years, fasting, are commonly used tools for weight loss. While these methods will move the needle on the scale, the effects are typically short-term. Caloric restriction and fasting also have numerous significant drawbacks for professionals in physically demanding roles.


  1. Muscle loss: Restricting calories or fasting for extended periods of time can trigger the body to consume muscle tissue for energy. Undereating limits the body’s ability to repair muscle tissue damaged from routine activities such as prolonged movement and exercise. In high-risk industries, maintaining muscle mass is crucial for physical performance and ensures the balance and stability needed to prevent injury.
  2. Metabolic Adaptation: Prolonged calorie restriction can lead to metabolic adaptation, where the body becomes more efficient at conserving energy. This makes it harder to continue losing weight and easier to regain once normal eating resumes. Maintaining a healthy weight in high-risk industries is essential for well-being and job performance.
  3. Loss of focus and energy: Fasting and calorie restriction can reduce energy levels, negatively impacting physical performance. These behaviors also lead to cognitive impairment, and difficulty maintaining focus and concentration. Being physically and mentally ready in high-risk workplaces is essential for safety and productivity.


Myth 1: Fasting/Restricting Calories Are Good Weight Management ToolsOther impairments brought on by fasting and calorie restriction include yo-yo dieting trends, disordered eating patterns and eating disorders, sleep disruption, reduced immunity, and hormonal dysfunction.


We recognize the need for workers to maintain a healthy weight. But there are better ways to do it. Educating workers on the risks of crash diets and connecting them to resources and programs that provide a framework for sustainable weight management practices can protect them from engaging in unhealthy weight loss practices.


Myth #2: Sleep is a Crutch


Beliefs that downplay or underestimate the value of sleep are extremely harmful to employee health and wellness. This myth is often unintentionally propagated in workplaces by glorifying “hustle culture” and presenting sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Many people have grown so accustomed to chronic sleep deprivation that they completely underestimate how much better they could perform and how much their internal health would improve with appropriate rest.


  1. Physical and Mental Performance: Adequate sleep is not a crutch; it's a cornerstone of peak performance. Lack of sleep leads to reduced cognitive function, impaired decision-making, decreased attention to detail, and slower reaction times. In high-risk industries, where split-second decisions can be a matter of life and death, these deficits can have dire consequences.
  2. Emotional Well-Being: Sleep is vital for emotional regulation and mental health. Sleep deprivation can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels. Workers who don't prioritize sleep are more susceptible to burnout and mental health issues that may impact job performance, personal safety, and the well-being of their teams.
  3. Safety: Fatigue due to sleep deprivation is a leading cause of accidents and injuries in the workplace. Workers laboring under the myth that sleep is a negotiable health factor are more likely to push themselves to exhaustion, increasing the risk of workplace accidents, falls, and errors.


Myth 2: Sleep is a CrutchSleep deprivation causes cognitive decline, reduced physical performance, and irritability in the short term. In the long term, it can cause hormonal imbalances, weight gain, increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart attack, and stroke.


Fostering a workplace culture that values rest and recovery is one of the first steps in dispelling beliefs that adequate sleep is not essential. Education and sleep support resources can greatly accelerate the process of resting employees' mindsets around sleep.


Myth #3: No Pain, No Gain


The belief that one should push through physical discomfort is deeply ingrained in many high-risk industries. Pain is the body’s way of waving a red flag to indicate something is wrong. Mild pain and discomfort can often be remedied with cost-effective solutions such as correcting muscular imbalances, job rotation, or ergonomic solutions. When ignored, we set the stage for more costly injuries to arise.


  1. Regular Assessments: Help workers better understand and overcome risk factors and limitations with regular assessments. These assessments should evaluate the workers' physical health with special attention to musculoskeletal factors. Identifying any issues early allows for targeted interventions.
  2. Ergonomic Evaluations: Conduct ergonomic evaluations of work environments. Look for factors that contribute to discomfort or strain. Simple adjustments, like modifying workstations or tools, can go a long way in preventing long-term issues.
  3. Proactive Training: Implement proactive training programs or work-hardening programs focusing on strengthening areas prone to imbalances. For example, in a workplace with frequent overhead motions and a high risk of rotator cuff tears, workers might engage in exercises that strengthen the shoulders, support mobility, and help them warm up for activity.


Myth 3: No Pain, No GainCommunicating with workers and actively listening to their feedback is also critical. Take comments or casual discomfort and chronic pain complaints seriously and connect workers to the resources needed to proactively mitigate these concerns.


Debunking the myth of “no pain, no gain” doesn’t imply that hard work should be avoided. Rather, it emphasizes the importance of early, cost-effective interventions. By identifying and addressing muscular imbalances and ergonomic issues before they escalate into injuries, workers can enjoy better long-term health and performance, ultimately benefiting themselves and their employers.



In conclusion, debunking these common health myths is not just about dispelling misconceptions but safeguarding the well-being of workers, especially in high-risk industries where physical and mental fitness are paramount. These myths, whether related to extreme dieting, undervaluing sleep, or pushing through pain, can have severe consequences, affecting the individual, workplace safety, and productivity.


Health MythsAs we observe Health Literacy Month, it's time for a collective shift in mindset. We encourage human resource professionals, safety experts, and employee wellness advocates to take proactive steps. Let's educate ourselves and our colleagues about the realities of health and well-being, debunk these myths, and prioritize long-term health and safety over quick fixes.


At SiteWell Solutions, we're committed to supporting workers in high-risk industries. We offer personalized solutions, resources, and programs to help you and your employees make informed decisions and take the right steps toward improved health and well-being.


Take action today and schedule a discovery call with SiteWell Solutions to explore how we can partner to create a healthier and safer workplace. Consider taking our Workforce Risk Assessment for a free Risk Factors and Interventions report. Together, we can promote a culture of well-being, enhance worker performance, and ensure safer, more productive workplaces for all. Your workers deserve it, and so does your business.



About SiteWell Solutions

SiteWell Solutions is committed to supporting business and organizations with health, wellness and injury prevention services. A healthy workforce is proven to be more engaged, productive and happier. It is our mission to deliver these outcomes to every organization we serve. Our services include onsite and virtual corporate wellness programs, industrial athlete training, injury prevention services, chronic disease management, employee resilience support services and much more. Contact today to find out how we can optimize your organization.

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