Office jobs, not an ideal situation for any person, sitting behind a computer for 8 hours a day; in the same place, on the same chair, with the same posture, using the same equipment… Just the thought of it makes me cringe, and yet as a population, it is the most common form of job; no matter the industry or skill level. The highest percentage of employed workers end up in a stuffy office; inhaling through bad air con, battling with dust allergies and RSI (repetitive strain injury), striving to earn a living and support a family.
There must be a way to combat the aches, pains and stiffness related to sitting still for so long? A way to help you focus for long periods of time and be more productive during work? An aid for efficiency and pro-activity? This is a topic I’ve been researching for years; as endless clients complain of back pain, neck strain, RSI, varicose veins and general weight problems from enduring long hours of stationary work. I am still currently working with other health professionals as we endeavour to over come this all too prominent issue. Through much experimentation, and a little geeky knowledge, I have come up with a few suggestions to try and keep you away from comatosing while the back of your office chair props you up.
Let’s begin with the simple stuff, a few movements anyone can do, even if the boss is at the desk next to you. Take a look at the time you start work, now every half an hour try and circle your feet a few times (both ways), get the joints mobilising and the blood circulating better; now have a go with your wrists. Once your done waving at the keyboard; place both feet flat on the floor, lift one heel and then the other, alternate for around 20 times. When no one is looking, roll your shoulders ten times forwards and ten times backwards; that should feel like a wonderful release through your shoulders and upper back muscles. Finishing off, just take both arms straight above your head, link the fingers and reach away; the greatest feeling stretch for the upper and mid body.
If you are not glued to your desk, then here is your next step. Every hour (or more often if you can), try and have an excuse to leave your desk; I used to say go to the bathroom, but it may look odd to suddenly be going every hour! So, try and send items to a printer furthest from your desk, or get up to use the photocopier. Be the one offering to go and help, or bring a colleague what they need; you are not only helping your body, but also gaining yourself great office brownie points! It’s hard to motivate yourself out of an office chair, but know that you are saving yourself many physical problems, giving your brain a small break, and even burning off minimal fat as you walk across the room. Now you’ve established all this, how about taking the long way back to your desk? If no one is around when you walk around the office, or you just don’t care, you can even try some lunges. Get perfect legs, while stimulating your mind -as it gets a rest from the screen- and improving your own work productivity. Now the office is beginning to sound a little more interesting!
As well as circulatory issues, diminishing posture is a common problem in office workers. It’s all to easy to slouch at a desk, leaning over the keyboard, shoulders dropping forwards; slowly the upper back and rear shoulder muscles are loosening, weakening and therefore failing. Think about posture when you sit at your desk, know how to sit. Keeping both feet on the floor, will not only help to maintain a straighter back posture, but will assist with circulation and help prevent varicose veins in later life. To help with posture, try and do a few back exercises a couple of times a week, whether in the gym or at home; this is vital to your bodies own well-being. Attending a Pilates class, participating in a core session, or training your core with knowledge; will also aid in postural strength and alignment.
Want to take it up a knotch? If there are stairs at your work place, this is your time to SHINE! A very effective way to exercise, so simple and yet with great results; walking up and down stairs. Why don’t you race your colleagues? Now run down and race up again! How about, every time you walk up the stairs try a different technique; sprint 1 at a time, engage your muscles 2 at a time… Every raised heart beat is burning fat, stimulating your muscles and brain, and releasing endorphins – the feel good hormone that will give you the energy to finish your day with a smile.
Really hardcore and know you are? Make sure you work near a gym and get in there at lunch time! Make your workout short, sharp and high intensity!
This is an ongoing project, to ensure the health and well-being of all our workers. Simple, little things make the difference; so make the most of any breaks and remember that a quick minute of walking away from the computer can improve your work efficiency and productivity.
NOTE – I’m not giving you permission nor advice to do any less work… in fact you should be able to do more ! 🙂
I hope this helps you get through the day in some way, let me know if you have any of your own techniques or experiences on this subject!
Safiyah Esack – 05/03/2013