Improving the health of tradies

Ok, the unhealthy tradie chugging an energy drink and knocking back a burger may be an unfair stereotype, but how can tradies improve their health? Our experts give their top tips.

In this Article:
Good sleep is key!
Mental health problems affect many
Asking for help is the first step
Stop Smoking!

Loz Antonenko

Healthy Habits Coach, Lozlife

Dave Renfrew

Owner and Clinical Educator at Newcastle Performance Physiotherapy

What are some of the key health issues that affect tradies?

With early morning starts and laborious daily activities, lack of sleep, inadequate physical recovery time, ineffective hydration with increased caffeine intake have become culturally normalised. Almost like handbrakes on tradie lifestyles, these key health issues interfere with long-term happiness, health and vitality.

Key health issues that affect tradies are workplace injuries and occupational lifestyle diseases. Big workplace injuries would be back pain, or injuries from falls on worksites. Lifestyle diseases include diabetes and heart disease. Another big health issue facing tradies is mental health problems. Particularly for male tradies, as historically they are not great at talking about their issues or asking for help.

Why do those tradie health issues happen?

Work demands and rising costs of living mean that tradies are prioritising labour over lifestyle to make ends meet. We have a very work-centric and productivity-focused workforce in Australia, so it’s the new normal for tradies.

Injuries and diseases are multifactorial problems, but a big risk factor for both is a lack of physical health and capacity for work. Often people with physical jobs think that that is enough exercise, however, the reverse is true. Occupational load has a negative effect on health, and so tradies need to be physically active and strong to decrease their risk of developing these problems. The risk of injury and disease increases over time as the negative impact of lifestyle factors accumulates, and making changes can get harder as you get older as well.

What can tradies do about these key health issues and why?

Focusing on getting a quality night of sleep by getting off devices early and promoting good sleep hygiene practices (room temperature and other sleeping conditions) will help the body recharge and restore during sleep. Using alternatives to coffee such as teas and herbs like ginseng (where appropriate) and ensuring adequate hydration will also assist tradies to perform better.

Heaps! Number one is: ask for help. There are plenty of health professionals that can help, and    plenty of programs available for companies to make this easier. I wouldn’t rewire my house      without asking for the help of a professional, so ask for help from a professional if you want to get a bit fitter and stronger, or if you are struggling with something at the moment. Number two is the general health advice your doctor would remind you about: getting enough sleep, limiting drinking, quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercising multiple times a week, including resistance training.

What’s the one biggest change the average tradie could make to their lifestyle to improve their health? 

Poor sleep has a profound effect on mental and physical well-being, so encouraging better sleep for tradies would be one small change with a profound effect on productivity, focus and confidence. It impacts other daily habits like hydration and cognitive capacity, as we tend to rely on substances for mental and physical stimulation when we don’t sleep well.

The biggest impact is to quit smoking. It is linked to all causes of mortality and morbidity. This can be hard, and their GP can help them access assistance. Short of that, the biggest one is to allocate 3-5 exercise sessions a week, and prioritise resistance training. Get a few mates together, pick a starting point, pick something fun, make it as hard as you can and keep each other accountable to keep going. Again, help from a professional makes this easier.

What would the health benefit be – and the risk of not doing so? Lack of sleep has been proven to be as dangerous as intoxication. Fatigue from sleep deprivation leads to many known poor health outcomes and decreases well-being all round. By simply prioritising more sleep, tradies will experience noticeable positive impacts across many areas of their life.

In all seriousness, the big benefit here is to live long enough to be here for your family, live a full life and enjoy retirement. Making these changes improves the length of your life, and the quality of it while you are here. On an everyday level, you will feel happier, have more energy, sleep better and decrease your risk of ending up in my clinic with a serious injury. Plus, you’ll look better with your shirt off.

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