We can spend up to 80 per cent of our day sedentary and for many of us this is spent desk-bound, the implications for which may place a significant burden on our health, not only in the medium term but long term as well. Prolonged inactivity has shown a plethora of health issues including weight gain, change in metabolism and poor posture which may lead to muscular and joint pain as well as poor circulation.
With a few simple changes to our day to day habits we can reduce our risk of health issues commonly associated with eight hour days spent sedentary.
Here are my top tips to combat the stats and instead achieve sustained optimal health:
When your movement or position is challenged or disadvantaged you demand your muscles to work harder to realign optimal posture. Scarred ligaments, tight muscles, arthritis, fatigue and laziness may contribute to habitual poor posture. Poor posture may not only lead to back pain but it can disturb the healthy function of your entire body.
It is important to understand that your good posture plays a key role in optimal health – from sitting or standing still (known as static posture) to walking, running, reaching, lifting or climbing stairs (known as dynamic posture).
When your movement or position is challenged, your muscles have to work harder as they attempt to realign to normal posture and hold the correct position. This may lead to scarred ligaments, tight muscles, joint abnormalities, arthritis and fatigue.
A properly aligned spine will help you maintain the correct spinal position for every day functions such as lifting, bending, twisting and sitting.
By partnering with a physiotherapist they will be able to assess and correct your posture and provide tailored exercises to help promote good postural habits.
While sitting at your desk action these tips:
- Sit up tall
- Push your chest out and pinch your shoulder blades together, but not so your stomach is sticking out
- Match the height of your computer screen so that you are at eye level, i.e. not looking down nor up which may strain your eyes and neck
- Avoid answering the phone by holding the handset between your neck and shoulder, which may cause strain
- Keep a note on your desk to remind yourself of these tips
Get active at your desk
Just because you are seated doesn’t mean you cannot move your body to keep it engaged all day long.
- Stimulate your core and practice ‘dynamic sitting’ with a physio ball. When you sit on a chair, you are generally fixed in a static position for an extended period of time. When sitting on a physio ball you create an immediate dynamic environment demanding continuous adjustments to your posture. The muscular spinal corset continuously contracts, adapts and responds to positional variations which challenges yet develops strength and control.
- Stretching is traditionally one of the most highly recommended components of any exercise regime or physical activity. Your body has over 600 muscles and it is important to try and stretch some of them even when we are not physically active. Sustained poor posture while sedentary can cause your muscles to contract which may lead to aches and pains in the body. Stretching helps to restore normal length and keeps your muscles engaged. A physiotherapist can help tailor a stretching program specific to you and your requirements.
- Make a habit to get up and walk around the office every hour. You can build incentive to move around by having a cup of water on your desk which you get up to refill, or move your rubbish bin further away from your desk or stand up and walk around to read a document.
Try creating a culture in your work place around the awareness and importance of good posture and movement throughout the working day. These tips are an easy starting point for anyone to action.
By Jason T Smith, the founder of Back In Motion Health Group, Australia’s leading provider of physiotherapy and related services. Jason’s book ‘Get Yourself Back In Motion’ is available at Back In Motion practices around Australia, major book retailers and online bookstores RRP $34.95. Find your nearest stockist via www.backinmotion.com.au and keep in touch with Jason via Facebook and Twitter