Written by our friends at Tufts Medical
Can I really stay active at my desk job?
It’s official – we’re heading into resolution season! And if you’re anything like us, you probably have big plans for the New Year – maybe you’re going to exercise more, or start eating healthier. Your vow is to overhaul your life. It’s a fantastic goal! But sometimes, it can be a bit too large of a project to take on successfully, and in a few weeks you’re back to your old habits.
So we looked at things from a different perspective and asked ourselves, what are some small, realistic changes we can make to help us be more active? We asked Julia Kajen, PT, DPT, Physical Therapist at Tufts Medical Center about it, and discovered there’s a part of our lives that is ripe with opportunities to be healthier – the office! She has some easy ideas for us to incorporate into our daily routines.
Before we get started on the strategies, let’s settle this once and for all – is sitting at my desk all day dangerous to my health?
It’s not exactly dangerous, but sitting for long periods of time can have unexpected negative effects on your health.
- Prolonged sitting causes muscle disuse, which leads to muscle weakness, especially in the abdominal and gluteal muscles. This can increase the risk of back and hip pain.
- Extreme but plausible problems that can arise from sitting for extended periods of time include foggy brain, strained neck, sore shoulders and back, mushy abs, tight hips, limp glutes, inflexible spine, disc damage, poor circulation, soft bones, heart disease, an over productive pancreas, and colon cancer.
I’m overloaded at work, so it’s hard to find the time to take breaks. How can I make sure to move during my workday?
- Give yourself some cues to check-in with your mind and body. Maybe it’s after every email you send, or each excel spreadsheet you edit, or every time you open a new tab on the computer – pick something you do fairly often throughout the day to be your reminder to move.
- Set an alarm or put a reminder in your calendar for a few times a day!
- Schedule meetings outside your office or stand while taking calls.
Now that I have the reminders, what should I DO?
- Don’t worry about your fidgeting. Our bodies, especially our spines, like to be in motion instead of in a sedentary position. So, all that fidgeting you do in meetings is good for your health – and provides your body with some of the mobility is craves!
- When you are in front of computer screens for long periods of time, your neck and upper back tend to become stiff.
- Rotate your head to the right and left about 10 times, 3-4 times throughout the workday.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades back, holding for 5-10 seconds, then relax; repeat 10 times, 3-4 times throughout the workday. It’s okay not to be in “perfect posture” at all times.
- There are a other small ways to add more activity into your day:
- Take a walk on your lunch break, even if it’s just for five minutes.
- Stand up while taking phone calls
- Walk to a further bathroom than the one closest to you.
- Park further away from your workplace
- Get off at an earlier T or train stop.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if it’s just once per day.
Should I be concerned about my sedentary job?
Sitting for long periods of time increases your risk of musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, intestinal disorders, certain cancers and metabolic syndrome. All these ailments decrease quality of life. Not only that, but prolonged sitting has been shown to decrease psychological well-being. However, decreasing your risk is an easy task if you start cultivating awareness of your movement and try to make these simple strategies into habits! You’ll thank yourself later!
At Tufts Medical Center, the team in our Physical Therapy Department is focused on helping you restore function, improve mobility and relieve pain so that you can enjoy your daily activities. We provide a full suite of physical therapy services, including evaluation and ongoing treatment. To find out more about our services and the process for getting treatment, contact us!
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