Weapons in the battle against devolution
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
We know that being sedentary is harmful to our health—but working in an office may not give us a chance to move around as much as we would like. Along with several tips for workplace ergonomics, we offer simple, short exercises to get you up from your desk and moving in no time. Encourage your coworkers to join in!
Everyone’s familiar with the monkey-to-man evolution graphic, but what about the inverse? Sitting at a desk for hours on end can doom you to the chimplike workstation slouch. We need not lead a life of poor posture, though. Simple changes will have you walking taller in no time.
Forward head posture, rounded shoulders, tight hip flexors and hamstrings, tired eyes, and frequent headaches. Sounds good … where do I sign up?
That’s probably the opposite of what you’re thinking. But you’ve already signed up if you work in an office and spend the majority of your day seated at a desk, staring at a computer monitor. A 2007 review of 25 studies found that sitting for more than half a workday, in concert with awkward postures, increases the likelihood of developing lower back pain and sciatica (pain along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the legs).
A review of studies from 1996 to 2011 showed a consistent relationship between the number of hours people are seated throughout the day and mortality, as well as a connection to weight gain from childhood to adulthood. A Canadian study included in the review found a strong association between time spent sitting and mortality from cardiovascular disease and all causes. Basically, the longer people spend sitting, the worse their outcomes.
There are ways to get up and move at work without altering your precious schedule:
You can also easily improve your posture:
Ergonomic improvements and less sitting at your office will pay modest but almost immediate dividends; however, adding regular workstation exercises can make a world of difference. You may protest the potential for pie-plate sweat stains under your arms or how ridiculous you will look snapping off burpees at your desk. But the following exercises won’t make your co-workers believe you are a protein shake-drinking, rep-counting, card-carrying fitness cult member. Try these low-key, high-value exercises the next time you are feeling stressed and gnarled. For best results, complete every hour or two.
Wall angels 1 set of 10 repetitions
Muscles worked: deltoids (all), abdominals
Muscles stretched: chest
If at any point part of your arm, hand, or body starts to lift off the wall, pause there for a moment, take a breath, and slide your arms back down to starting position, at shoulder height.
Hip flexor lunge 1 set of 5 per leg
Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps
Muscles stretched: hip flexors, quadriceps, abdominals, tibiales anteriores
Alternating quadriceps extensions 1 set of 20 repetitions
Muscles worked: quadriceps, tibiales anteriores
Muscles stretched: calves, hamstrings
Bow and reach 1 set of 8 repetitions
Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, lower back, posterior deltoids, abdominals
Muscles stretched: hamstrings, lower back, latissimus dorsi
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker and the product to the user, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. The workplace is often the focal point of the study of ergonomics. After a workspace, and a worker’s interaction with the space, is observed, changes can be suggested that can improve posture and reduce strain from, for example, repetitive movements.