There are not many jobs which can provide enough mobility that we all require to keep those health risks at bay. The majority of jobs roles require us to sit at a desk which means limited movement. We can spend up to 10 hours sat at our desk, we sit down to eat and on top of all that we then sit down on the sofa to unwind at the end of the day. Over a period of time this will start to have a negative impact on our health and particularly our spines, as our spines require movement. Other common health conditions which can develop if we don’t move and stay healthy include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and negative implications on our mental health. Utilising the time at your desk and keeping mobile is a great idea.
Humans are designed to be mobile, so our bodies really don’t like sitting at a desk, even worse sitting incorrectly. Certain areas of the spine will take too much load when sitting including the joints and discs.
The most common area that will suffer is the low back. Sitting increases the pressure through your discs by up to 300% and this extra pressure over an extended period could lead to a damage to the discs which can sometimes cause pressure on the nerve.
The neck can also take unnecessary load when our postures slip. The head weighs around 5-6kg but as soon as our heads bend to look down at the keyboard the stress that is exerted on the neck can increase to 25kg. If this stress continues over years then those overloaded joints will gradually wear down and we may develop certain types of headaches.
Our muscles have many different roles to play, but two of the their most important are; to create motion and to protect our joints. Sitting for extended periods creates changes to our muscles, particularly around our low backs, neck and upper backs. It is important that we keep mobile at our desk to allow these muscles to remain healthy.
When a muscle is shortened due to poor posture for an extended period it can remain short. Common muscles that gradually shorten due to prolonged sitting are the Psoas (low back/hip), extensors (low back), pectorals (chest) and upper trapezius muscles (neck). As muscles get shorter other muscles can lengthen. This can prevent the muscles from contracting properly which is why those muscles gradually weaken. Common muscles that get weak are the gluteals (Bum), abdominals, rhomboids (mid back) and deep neck flexors (neck).
How can we keep mobile when sitting at our desk’s?
There are some simple exercises we can do when sitting at our desk to prevent certain muscles getting short and weak. Stretching and taking those joints through a range of motion will feel amazing and stop areas overloading.
Other ideas to keep mobile in the office
Using your commute as exercise
Whether you cycle into work or get off at the bus a few stops early this will not only get your joints working but will also keep those muscles active. In and around the office there are plenty of things we can add in such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or going to speak to a colleague instead of emailing, it all adds up and with definitely help.
Making phone calls and meetings active
One way to keep mobile when working at a desk is by using a headset instead of the phone or taking your client for a walk and making it an active conversation or meeting. This has been shown to increase productivity so not only your joints are benefiting but also your brain.
Fill your lunchtimes with motion
If you cant make it to the gym before or after work then the next best option is to go on your lunch. If the gym is not for you then joining an exercise group is a great idea and will keep you motivated. There are many groups available such as walking, yoga, pilates or karate classes to name just a few.
Keeping motivated is really important as these positive changes can soon stop when the busy workload takes over. Tracking your steps will give you an idea how active you have been during the day. It is recommended that we perform 10,000 steps per day but a recent study has shown the average office worker will only do 4,000 per day.
Another good way to keep motivated is finding a friend who you can start the exercise journey with. It is all too easy to find an excuse not to go for that run or walk if its just you, but if you’re answerable to a friend it has been shown you’re much more likely to go.
To keep your spine and body in the best possible health then do not forget the importance of setting your desk up correctly.