Work can be a total pain in the neck… and back… and hips….
Monday morning. Your weekend is a distant memory and the pile of work on your desk awaits. Now that we are well and truly into the year, it’s not uncommon to feel aches and pains that aren’t there on the weekend but reveal themselves during a long day seated at your desk.
You’re probably aware of the importance of being active every day and as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, I live by the mentality that Movement is Medicine. But did you know that the research coming out now suggests that even if you meet the Australian physical activity guidelines long term sedentary behaviour can compromise your metabolic health. Great, more problems… so what are the solutions?
The positive result highlighted in a study from the University of Queensland indicated that frequent and regular breaks from sitting resulted a reduction in metabolic biomarkers. Read on for my top tips to achieve small movement frequently throughout your day that will accumulate to have a beneficial effect on your overall health.
Move – and move often!
It can be difficult (and inconvenient) to move up and away from your work desk when you’re in the middle of a work task but scheduling time in your work day to stand, walk and stretch is important.
How do you achieve this?
- Help yourself by setting a pop-up reminder on your work calendar to remind you to take a movement break every 45 minutes.
- Walk and talk with colleagues instead of emailing. You can get the benefits of some fresh air and circulation through your lower limbs as well as striking off items on your to-do list.
- Create a movement culture in the workplace – it’s easier to remember, more enjoyable and a positive impact on the work community around you.
- Set up office items like the printer or rubbish bin on the other side of the room to promote frequent movement especially for times when “you just don’t feel like it.”
You will be amazed at the difference even a small adjustment of your desk set up can have over a full day and it’s one of the easiest changes to make. We know that periods of static postures such as sitting, driving and standing, can lead to compensatory changes in how we load our muscles, so it’s imperative your workstation is set up to facilitate a neutral posture to support and protect your body as you work.
Here’s how to do it:
- Ensure your feet are supported by the ground or a foot rest, with your hips and knees at 90- degrees flexion to support your lower back and reduce pressure on your spine.
- Position your screen at arm’s length away from your seated posture and check in to see if you bend or stretch your neck when looking at the screen. The best position for your monitor is elevated so you look directly in the top third of the screen.
- Take pride in sitting up tall, setting your shoulders back and keeping your chest open as you work the day away.
Be aware on breaks
Break out. Break free. Break the habit. Just don’t sit still! Use break time to move around and free up your muscles for the rest of the day. Be mindful of the smaller muscles in the hands and wrists too. Getting lost in the world of Instagram, Pintrest or Facebook while you’re eating lunch might be a good escape, but the continuous gripping and rounded posture as you scroll away doesn’t give your body a break. If your work involves frequent typing and mouse work then the hours tally up and may be the reason your forearms and neck are feeling tight and sore.
- Prop up your phone to minimise sustained gripping. Bonus points if you position the phone in an elevated position to minimise neck flexion.
- Swap hands – alternating postural positioning helps to share the loading requirements and allows a rest break for your dominant hand.
- Less is more – consider a digital detox to reduce how much screen time you accumulate on a daily basis (with the exception of checking in to Bodytrack’s facebook page to see our latest updates).
- Get outside if you can to get some fresh air or chat to colleagues standing in the break room rather than sitting.
If you are experiencing any pain or stiffness at work or not reaching your recommended activity level, then contact us at Bodytrack Exercise Physiology to assist with an ergonomic review or a tailored exercise program.