- What I want you to remember
The biggest thing I want you to take away from this today is motion is lotion. Remember that, your body is designed to move so don’t neglect it.
Studies in 2012 by Diabetes research and clinical practice found that too much sitting is highly associated with health complications including cardiometabolic risk, type 2 diabetes and premature mortality.
Any prolonged sitting can be harmful. An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying from obesity and smoking. This analysis of data from more than 1 million people found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day countered the effects of too much sitting.
All of the tissues in your body benefit from you moving, so in the wise words of Kylie Minogue “Come on baby do the locomotion”.
- Take breaks
Every 20 mins if you can is ideal, get up from your desk and go for a quick walk anywhere (furthest restroom, printer, water cooler, colleague’s desk). Just move.
Avoid eating lunch at your desk, if working from home take the dog for a walk. I’m sure he/she will be more than happy to keep you company.
- Take a meeting on the move
Have a meeting or brainstorm scheduled? Do it while you walk — not only is it good for fitness, but it also helps manage stress and boosts creativity!
- Treat elevators, escalators and moving walkways as the enemy
I understand if you work at the top of a 40-story building but try to consider elevators as your enemy. The same goes for escalators and walkways. Plus it adds to your NEAT which I will come to later. When working from home, if you are working down stairs and you have a downstairs toilet, why not use the one upstairs? And vice versa.
- Count it out
Get a pedometer and try to clock 10,000 steps per day. Also if you have something like a smart watch you can set reminders on it or if its anything like mine it nags me to get moving every hour until I do.
- Set alarms on your computer or mobile device
Every hour at work, have a little ringer go off to remind you to take a stretch or walk to the nearest printer or water cooler.
- Hit the water
It’s easy to become dehydrated when you work behind a desk all day because subconsciously you might only relate liquid intake to physical activity. Regardless of whether you are physically active or sedentary, you need to drink approximately 8 oz glasses of water every day in order to stay healthy. That’s approx. 2ltrs.
Get yourself a reusable water bottle and keep it on your desk. Make yourself drink at least one full bottle before lunch, and one full one before you go home at
the end of the day. Drinking water will keep you fuller and less tempted to snack on empty calories, plus if you have a supplied source of water you’re likely to drink 60% more.
Please check out my blog on my website for more information about why drinking water is so important, extra reasons you may not have been aware of.
- Try to smile.
If your day is rough and nothing is going your way, just try forcing yourself to smile. Studies show that smiling has hormonal and physiological responses. Smiling increases endorphins, Dopamine which increases the feeling of happiness and Serotonin which reduces stress levels. Unless your desk job consists of watching comedies all day, you may want to consider smiling a little more. Plus it has an added benefit of looking like a psychopath when its prolonged without speaking.
- Get your NEAT up
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do when we’re not sleeping or exercising. Cutting the grass, walking up stairs to get to the office, even the hour of fidgeting after a strong cup of coffee in the morning are all great examples. They all burn calories, and more than we would expect.
Our jobs and careers tend to impact our levels of NEAT greatly. Occupational NEAT is the activity thermogenesis resulting from work. Anyone working in an occupation that requires you to be on your feet moving about or engaging in any physical activity would have higher levels of NEAT to be proud of.
For others who spend Monday to Friday chained to desks sending e-mails, their levels of NEAT are generally a lot lower. The difference in energy expenditure between active and sedentary jobs can run into hundreds or even thousands of calories.
There are certainly ways to increase NEAT even when working in a sedentary occupation. You can do so either by working in some NEAT throughout the work day. Try small changes throughout your daily routine that you think can burn more calories, some people try snack exercising which are very small amounts of exercise split up throughout the day. Unfortunately, most of us don’t try to do so. We consistently and completely overlook NEAT. So make sure you keep moving to keep health risks low and the calories you burn high.
Stretch or move in place
Got some spare time? Of course you have, you’re reading this! Touch your toes, walk or march in place for a few minutes, do a good set of jumping jacks, who cares what you look like?! You can even box squat on and off your chair while I am annoyingly nagging you to move throughout this whole article.
Here is a video that you can stretch alongside when you need to. Try to do this at least once a day, especially on days where you’re dominantly at your desk/work station. For optimal results, you should spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. If you can hold a particular stretch for 15 seconds, repeating it three more times would be ideal. If you can hold the stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions would do the trick.
Equipment and work station
Adjust your monitor
Staring at a screen for long periods of time every day can have a negative impact on your eyesight as well as cause computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include visual problems directly related to prolonged computer use. If you are forced to look at a screen for long periods of time try to adjust your monitor settings to avoid unnecessary strain on your eyes. The brightness of your screen should ideally match the lighting in your office or room. If a blank text document glows like a light source your monitor is too bright. Take every measure you can to lower blue light emission as much as possible. When using a light source such as a lamp try to make sure it is behind you.
Invest in your health with your equipment.
There is no shortage of health-conscious equipment, especially those that are designed for the office. If you are able to, consider replacing your sit-down desk with a standing desk or, if you’re brave enough, a treadmill desk. Or even replace your office chair with a swiss ball. Both options activate more muscles to use and in turn promotes health a lot more.
There are also specifically designed ergonomic products like office chairs, keyboards, or computer mice that help to alleviate strain in the body while sitting or working for long periods of time.
- Did you know that your head weighs around 5kg and you’re asking your muscles and soft tissue to hold that weight all day and you do that for a few days and you have a recipe for a lot of pain.
- Your chair should allow you to achieve a comfortable position.
- Support the natural curvature of your spine
- Make sure you are facing your screen and the screen should be approximately arm’s length away
- Sit back in your chair
- Feet comfortably placed on the floor
- Ensure your eye line is level with your monitor
- Your hips should be slightly higher than your knees
- By making sure the keyboard is directly in front of you and as central as possible to your body, you will be able to type with your shoulders in a natural position and avoid unnecessary pain.
- The keyboard at the same height as the elbows and forearms, the shoulders can fall relaxed by your side.
- The keyboard should be around 5cm from the edge of the desk
- Some recommend vertical mice as these encourage the hand into a neutral hand-shake position, whereas traditional mice cause twisting, which can lead to strain and resulting injury.
- Should be directly in front of you
- Same height as the elbows and forearms
Feel that you may need additional equipment?
After following the information and guidance if you still feel something about your workstation is effecting your muscle and joint pain, speak with your employer, they can help you decide if you need any adjustments and further equipment when back in the office.
When working from home don’t worry, you can adjust some things at your desk by simple household objects. Try a rolled up towel for support on your lumbar spine (lower back), this will help maintain the natural curvature of your spine. You can use books or a shoe box under your monitor if it is too low and cannot be adjusted. Sit on a pillow/cushion if your chair is too low, and a box under your feet to rest on.
Arranging your desk
A simple way of reducing risk to muscle and joint pain is by rearranging your desk items based on how frequently you use them. Put items closer to you the more you use them.
- Regular work area: You need to be sitting back comfortably in your chair, with your elbows relaxed by your side. Try to have objects you regularly use in this area, such as your mouse and keyboard.
- Occasional work area: Desk objects in this area you should be able to reach still with your back against the chair but your arms extended, items that you may use less regularly should be in this zone.
- Non- working area: In this area equipment that you rarely use, or may need to refer to only once or twice in your working day should be in this area.
It may be little changes like this that can really help. It may prevent repetitive stain injury if you find positions that are more comfortable for you. Have a look at your desk space and make some simple changes if necessary.
Working from home you may only have a set position, however when back in the office if possible try this. Hot desking is becoming more common as it allows a greater flexibility for employees. You should follow the tips above each time you sit at a new computer, if you do move desks.
Working with a laptop
When working from home your more than likely to use a laptop. The good thing here is you can change your working position, however always maintain good posture and ensure the above points are put into practice each time you are to move. It is important that you stay comfortable while using them.
If you are working for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, you should set yourself up at a desk, regrettably it’s not good to chill on the sofa whilst working.
Additional equipment can be helpful if you are using
for long periods, for example you may want to consider attaching a regular keyboard and using a laptop stand.
Working with mobile devices
A tablet or phone is a great portable device to use for short periods of time. However, a static workstation set up correctly is the best option if you are working for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Below are some tips to help understand how best to use mobile devices.
- Whenever possible try to place the tablet on a surface or a holder rather than you holding it for long periods.
- Make sure you’re not tilting your head or hunching over for long periods when using your device, you can position it so it saves you straining your neck and shoulders.
- Keep the visibility good by keeping your screen clear and clean
- Use a light touch when typing on the screen it will be more efficient as well as preventing problems, you can change the sensitivity settings on most devices so it will recognise your touch even If there is a screen on it.
- Remember “motion is lotion”. So, If you find yourself using the tablet for more than 20 minutes, change your position and have a break.
Access to Work
If you are disabled or have a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to carry out your role, firstly talk to your employer, they may be able to assist with any changes in the workplace, or even have equipment that can help you at home.
If the help you need is not covered by your employer, you may be able to get help from Access to Work to make reasonable adjustments.
Access to Work can help with specialist equipment, adaptations which may help you.
More information can be found at: www.gov.uk/access-to-work
Remember you can help avoid computer related injuries with frequent exercise, stretching, the right ergonomics, and the right working habits. I hope all of this information helps you and enhances the way you look at your desk environment and mindset, small changes here and there can have a huge benefit to your health and happiness.