Moving more helps our heart, blood pressure, strength, quality of life, weight and general wellbeing. It helps us manage pain, is quick and a lot easier to do when it becomes habitual. So simply let’s try to sit less and move more.
For those of you who continue to work from home, here are some tips to help improve your desk set up, reduce muscle tension or joint stiffness and practise healthy posture, all of which will reduce the impact of sedentary behaviour.
Sort your work space out
Whether you are using a laptop or desktop, make sure that the screen is set at eye level. This can be achieved by using a laptop holder or raising it up with books to prevent you from slouching to read the screen. If available, use a separate keyboard and mouse rather than the keypad on your laptop. This will help to keep your arms relaxed by your side instead of stretching forward and up to a raised position, as doing this for a prolonged period can build tension in the shoulders, wrists and upper back.
Ideally you should sit at a desk and use an adjustable office chair. Resist the temptation to lie on a sofa or bed all day as your back won’t thank you. If you don’t have an office chair, use a rolled-up towel wedged behind your lower back for extra lumbar support. If the chair is comfortable, put a cushion underneath you to pad the seat.
Your feet should be able to reach the floor, so if you can’t, place a box, step or even ream of paper below you, so you can plant your feet there and offload your back. If you can tilt the seat, adjust it so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. A slight forward tilt helps to maintain your back in a healthy shape and engage your core.
Practise healthy phone habits
Try to avoid getting into the habit of clamping your phone between your ear and shoulder, as this awkward position can cause pain and discomfort after a while, due to muscle tightness and joint stiffness. If you’re making regular phone calls, consider investing in a head set (perhaps your office IT department could send you one?) or using the loudspeaker function if you’re in a private area.
Whether you’re working or using your personal phone, you may find yourself bending your head down over your phone or tablet, which can cause lengthened, fatigued muscles that will result in pain. Try to avoid getting ‘text neck’ by lifting your device up to your eye line rather than the other way around.
Light is your friend
Working in a dim room will make it harder to read and concentrate, which could give you headaches or muscle tension and make you feel sleepy. Open the blinds or turn on the lights, flood the room with as much light as you can, especially your workstation. Work perpendicular to the window to reduce glare on your screen.
If you can’t properly see what you’re reading you’re more likely to slouch nearer to gain better focus. Having your head in this forward posture for long periods of time may also result in neck or back ache.
If you feel tense or start to experience pains or pins and needs, it’s usually your body’s way of telling you to change position and move. It’s crucial you vary your posture throughout the day, and as they say, the best position is your next position. Get into the routine of breaking up the day with stretching, walking, and changing posture.
One of the nice things about working from home is being able to sit, stand and mix it up. Perform some mobility exercises while you wait for the kettle to boil or stand on leg while waiting for your next video call. Seize opportunities to get moving. If you’re on a conference call, plug in your headphones and walk around the house while you’re talking, or maybe even go for a lap of the block.
Build exercise into your weekly routine, as without our usual active commuting time or access to physical hobbies, not to mention the temptation of snacking and calorie surplus, you might notice yourself becoming extremely sedentary. Find something that works for you and involve your children. Joe Wicks does daily exercise videos and there’s masses of stuff out there on the internet for ways to work out at home. We’ve also got some exercise videos you can work along with.
If home space is limited, go outside for your exercise (while adhering to government guidelines). Aim to meet the suggested guidelines to have at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to see limitless health benefits.
Listen to your body. Eye strain, headaches, tiredness, muscle ache and lethargy are all signs you might need a break, so don’t try and power through. When you’re in the zone of working from home, it can be easy to forget to take breaks, but a short break can be great both physically and mentally, often resulting in improved productivity when you get back to your computer.
Set reminders on your calendar to take a short break every hour, even if it’s just to get up and stretch. Get up and move your spine and upper body.
It’s important to give yourself emotional breaks from work as well. All the usual stresses of work have followed us into lockdown, on top of concerns about the virus, and these can manifest themselves in the the body in the form of muscle tension, rounded shoulders, increased heart rate and clenched jaw. Let yourself switch off, walk away from your desk and do something you really love, even if it’s just for ten minutes or so.
Keep yourself hydrated. Not only will your body thank you for drinking water, but before long your bladder will force you to get up and get moving as well.
With new habits and working from home routines becoming the norm, hopefully we have shown you a few ways to allow your body to adapt and reduce the risk of possible flare ups. Remember, when starting a new routine- whether that be running outdoors, exercising at home or sitting more at the desk – take gradual steps to ease yourself into this new activity with the correct technique and habits.
If you would like further information and advice about your pain, please do not hesitate to contact us and we can arrange a video consultation to discuss your needs and how we can support you. Whether it’s advice from our practitioners, a remote exercise plan, an app recommendation or a blend of these, we are here for you. Please get in touch. Call us on 0800 389 8820 or enquire online.