As you head back to work after the summer holiday break, it is a good time to think about how you can stay active in the workplace.
A problem we often experience in the workplace, is we are often sitting at the computer for long periods of time. Studies have found that sitting for too long (more than 60% of your waking hours) and being inactive or sedentary, can play a direct role in poor health, including a higher risk of chronic disease.
Workers who sit for long periods of time are also at higher risk of lower back pain, neck pain, and associated headaches.
The issue is two-fold.
Firstly, the issue of sedentary behaviour – muscles not moving, sluggish blood flow throughout the body because of lack of movement, and poor muscle activation. As a result, you can experience increased risk of higher blood glucose levels and an increased risk of the onset of chronic diseases.
Secondly, sitting for long periods of time changes the biomechanics of the lumbar spine (lower back) with reduced lumbar lordosis of the lower back, shortened hamstrings, and weakened muscles around the lumbopelvic region. Importantly, prolonged periods of sitting exerts excessive and prolonged pressure through the lumbar discs. The cervical spine (or neck) also changes position as the head comes forward to look at the screen, which can initiate tension and headaches.
Studies have also shown that office workers who stand and move around more at work, have improved productivity and concentration compared to their sedentary work colleagues
Four tips to reduce your sedentary time sitting at a desk:
- Refresh your thinking about your “desk job” – desk jobs do not have to be sitting jobs. Stand when you can – for example, taking a phone call.
- Be bold enough to exercise in the office – close the door if you have one – it will help you feel more energetic and reduce pain.
- Have standing and walking meetings with colleagues.
- Start a lunchtime walking group.
Here are a few exercises to try at work – you only need a chair and a wall:
Sit to stand
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your arms in front of your chest.
- Stand up, then slowly sit back down keeping your arms across your chest.
- Repeat x10
Wall push -up
- Stand up straight facing a wall and place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height, slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Keep your body straight, tightening the buttock muscles.
- Bend your elbows, taking your chest towards the wall.
- Make sure you keep a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.
- Straighten your arms back out again, lifting your chest away from the wall.
- Repeat x 10
The video shows you some more exercises to help your posture at work. These can be done easily – you just need a wall!