Healthy office habits as No 1 enemy of prolonged sitting
There is plenty of evidence and many studies which show that prolonged periods of sitting are responsible for an increased risk of a range of diseases. Even the most ergonomically perfect office set-up is not ideal if you are still sitting for 8 to 10 hours a day, every day, which is why developing healthy office habits is key to maintaining both good physical and mental health.
The simple solution is to move often. You must create a dynamic office environment with upright workstation options, standing or walking meetings and an environment where you actually get up and physically go talk to your colleagues across the room, rather than staying put, sitting down and simply emailing or calling them from your chair. Such changes will have a positive impact on your health.
During the recent Covid-19 epidemic, many people were forced to work from home which led to an increase in patients who had non-specific, or rather non-traumatic spinal discomfort. This was a result of people moving a lot less during the day and all their meetings were held via Zoom, rather than getting up and going to a meeting room, or leaving the office to attend a client site, like in pre-epidemic times. This increased their sitting load almost overnight whilst subsequently reducing their daily movements.
You don’t have standing desks?
If you have to sit all day at work, try some of the following activities:
· Try using an ergonomic kneeling seat rather than a standard chair, this can again change up muscle activations and challenge the body’s support systems.
· Take short breaks regularly and use them to stand and move, even if it is simply just the act of walking around your chair. For instance, every time you are on a phone call you can stand up and move around.
· Look to regularly alter your sitting position to allow different muscles to work and others to rest. Attempt to roll your back from erect to slouched postures regularly throughout the day, taking your spine through its natural motions consistently while sitting.
· Consider sitting on a Fit ball at work which again can be a tool to encourage more motion whilst sitting. The use of variable seats and purposefully mixing between a standard chair, kneeling stool, fit ball, or similar can always help you to avoid being stagnant and non-varying in your positioning throughout your day.
Introduce these suggested ideas slowly into your work routine. As basic as they may seem, you may need to condition your spine to the changes which can days/weeks for your spine to get used to the change.
Move your body
Forging new and healthy habits is difficult, in general. However, such changes are important because you need to move your body. By doing so, you will improve your health and won’t interrupt your busy schedule.
· Take using the photocopier, or printer as an example. Commit to yourself that every time you go to the copier machine, or are waiting for something to print, you do a few movements with your arms, legs or spine, or do a set of bodyweight squats and lunges.
Obviously, these exercises don’t have to be only associated with printing, or copying something. You can do them every time you go grab a coffee, or cup of tea or when you use the bathroom. These are all opportunities to stretch, move or do quick exercises.
Perhaps you will feel silly doing something like this in front of your colleagues. One option is to suggest at an upcoming meeting that you all come up with ideas to create improvised exercise stations around the office. For example, the photocopier is the stretching-your-spine station and the water cooler is the place where you will do ten squats. You don’t have to pick these exact exercises, as anything will be better than nothing. If you do these exercises in a clear view of everyone in the office, then they may quickly become the everyday norm around the office. If you work from home, it is even easier to set up exercises as none of your colleagues will see you doing your star jumps every time you make a coffee and no one will judge you if you exercise.
Create a balanced workplace
Ergonomics doesn’t only imply considering your chair and monitor height. Something frequently neglected is symmetry around the workstation. It is important to consider a balance of right and left-handed activities and the distributing of load across the limbs, as well as how your head and spine are positioned in regard to repetitive or sustained unilateral positions of rotation.
Ask yourself, do you prefer turning to the right or the left, or are you reaching and leaning at the desk towards the right or the left? Positioning things in your workspace so it encourages you to operate in a more balanced manner around the workstation may assist in stopping you from overloading one side more than the other. Doing this could assist in helping fight imbalances in your body, while encouraging movement in all directions, not just the same repetitive ones over and over again.
Drink a lot of water
Hydration is crucial to life and the function of the musculoskeletal system is no different to the rest of the body concerning this. Dehydrated spinal discs, dehydrated muscles and joints are potentially at greater risk of being pain sources. Increasing your hydration may assist in reducing repetitive strain-associated pains. Taking regular breaks to drink water, during which you consume small quantities of water, is a great way to keep your tissues hydrated and healthy. And at the very least it will have you getting up and down more from your chair and taking more frequent trips to the bathroom, so you will be moving more, which is, after all, the ultimate goal here.
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