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Women who go to work get health warning

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-03-07 08:50:58


Experts say hours spent at a desk while juggling the pressures of office and family life are leading to disease, stress and even cancer for the new generation of professional women in China. But perhaps a little exercise three times a week could help, as Zheng Xin reports.

Women who go to work get health warning

Female employees from the Postal Savings Bank in Dongyang, Zhejiang province learn yoga during their break time. Professional women spend most of their time sitting at a desk, which puts them at risk of health problems. Bao Kangxuan and Chen Chaobin / for China Daily

China's workforce has changed rapidly over the past few decades, with the number of women who go out to work steadily rising.

Since many women continue in paid employment while juggling their responsibilities as mothers and carers, researchers are finding that work-related health problems are posing a severe threat to the professional female.

"Increasingly, females are facing various occupational diseases, some chronic and some acute," said Zhou Qinlu, a mass fitness researcher at the Beijing Institute of Sports Science, who has been focusing on female health for years.

"Most professional women, who are generally 20 to 60 years old, are troubled by health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood sugars and coronary heart disease resulting from excessive body fat," said Zhou.

Zhou said some are also struggling with menstrual disorders, a difficult menopause, sleeping disorders and even cancers due to their overworked immune systems.

In addition, almost every working woman experiences some sort of spinal problems, including pain in the back, leg, neck area or arms, while some report numbness in the arms and hands.

"It is suggested that professional women should exercise regularly, at least three times a week for no less than 30 minutes each time, consisting of both aerobic workouts and strength training," said Zhou.

According to Zhou, a study by the Women's Federation five years ago suggested that only 28.8 percent of the public consistently exercise regularly.

However, employed women get evenless exercise, with only around 6 percent training regularly.

Many professional women spend most of their time sitting at a desk, which results in a sedentary lifestyle known to put them at risk of conditions including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, certain cancers, weight gain and obesity.

"Occupational sitting increases the risk of certain conditions in women, and poor posture or a poorly designed workstation can lead to curvature of the spine," said Zhou.

"We are also witnessing cases of the pelvis becoming deformed and poor blood circulation, which directly affects fertility."

Zhou suggested that women stand up and stretch after 40 minutes of sitting at a desk, and they should encourage companies to introduce standing-up desks in offices.

"The sad thing is, recent research suggests the proportion of people leading a healthier lifestyle is barely increasing. It is still below 10 percent," she said.

"Most women, especially those in the workforce, find that work puts too much pressure on them yet deprives them of enough time for regular exercise," said Zhou.

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