You arrive into work, turn your computer on and get stuck into it. Before you know it, it’s lunchtime and you haven’t moved. Maybe you got up to get something from the printer, made yourself a cuppa or went to the bathroom. But you hardly got the blood flowing. You then grab some lunch and have it at your desk, because you’ve got so much to do and need to keep on working. Any of this starting to sound familiar? Being stuck at a desk all day is a reality for many of us.
This lack of movement can lead to many problems. Postural-related complaints are at the top of the list among patients in my Osteopathy clinic. And these problems are usually related to their occupation. So if your lower back is aching, neck is tight, you’re experiencing tension along the back of your head or your trapezius muscles (located between your shoulders and neck) are hard as wood, sitting at a desk all day might be the reason to blame. Even if you’re not there yet give it a few more years in this daily pattern, and I promise you these symptoms will start to feel familiar.
When you sit for prolonged amounts of time, anything more than 30-45 minutes, your muscles tighten and become weaker. Your joints also stiffen and lose a level of function. Over time this leads to joint degeneration, a weakened core, increased pain, decreased elasticity and probably more visits to your Osteopath to help relieve your aches and pains. Not to mention the host of other health problems (mental, biochemical and pathological) that arise when you don’t move your body.
There are many things you can do to save your body (and your health) when you are an office worker or even spend most of your working day in the car.
– Move every 30 minutes. If that means setting a timer or downloading an app to remind you, do that. Move for at least two minutes. Fill up your water bottle, have a stretch, use the bathroom, just get out of that chair!
– Drink more water. Our bodies are made up of over 70% water. So our cells, muscles and brains need it to function and be healthy. You’ll also need to use the bathroom more, forcing you to move! Aim for one and a half to two litres per day.
– Set up your work station to help your posture. Your monitor should be at eye level. Ensure you are sitting straight in front of your computer. If you have two monitors, get a swivel chair and be mindful of looking at your screen from an angle. Have your chair at a height where your hips and knees are at 90 degrees and your feet are flat on the floor. Also, adjust your back rest. Try to ensure it is upright and that most of the support fits into the small of your back or lower spine.
– Stretch. Stretching your muscles will prevent them tightening up. If you’re unsure of what stretches to do, seek advice from an Osteopath, Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist or Chiropractor. Or find a yoga class to get your dose of muscle lengthening exercises. Try pulling the top of your head towards your opposite shoulder to get a nice stretch for the side of your neck muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and then swap sides.
– Exercise! Before or after work or during lunch breaks to get the blood flowing and keep your muscles and joints healthy.
– Incorporate incidental exercise. Park an extra block or two away or get off the tram, train or bus earlier. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you lucky enough to live close by try walking to work. It all adds up.
– Regularly do Pilates or other core strengthening workouts. When you sit all day, your core muscles weaken. These muscles are meant to support your posture, and most importantly your lower back. So strengthening your core will improve stability for your lower back and lessen your chance of injury.
– Surround yourself with positivity. It’s mind-blowing what stress can do to your body. Muscle tension and pain can be the physical result of stress. So find a way to either disconnect yourself from stressful situations or toxic people in the workplace. Or cultivate a daily meditation practice to help your body relax.