Keeping Active at Work

By Amy Gillespie, Physiotherapist

We all know that keeping active is important for our physical and mental health as well as our general wellbeing.  It can be hard to keep active however, when we have an already busy schedule.  Work takes up a large proportion of our life, and for many of us, we do not get as much activity as we would like through our day.  This doesn’t apply to just office workers who are sitting for a living but also those workers who drive trucks or operate machinery in a factory.  For these types of workers, they have one thing in common, they spent long periods of time in static postures.  As a physiotherapist, static postures are one of the common things that I advise patient’s to be aware of and try and break up during the day.  While most of us can handle sitting in a chair or driver’s seat for half an hour or an hour at a time, when we have to sit for 8-10 hours straight with very minimal changes in posture, we can run into trouble and may start to develop discomfort, tightness or pain. 

Our bodies are strong and resilient but really are made for movement.  They can handle most of what we ask of them but they like variety, they don’t like being stuck in the same position for hours on end.  Making sure that we keep moving as much as we can is really important.  It may be ensuring that we head away from our desk at lunch time and take a walk to a park for lunch or even just a quick walk up and down the street before coming back to eat our lunch.  Trying to increase the activity by parking further away from the entrance or only taking the stairs is another good way to try and get more active.  For those driving for a living, make sure you are doing as much walking as you can whenever you are getting out of the vehicle for deliveries, break times or when fuelling up. 

If you are in an occupation that requires a lot of prolonged sitting or standing particularly, it can be useful to think of a few simple ways to get a bit more movement in your day.  With those sitting in an office setting I would suggest to include ‘posture breaks’ regularly in your day.  These posture breaks do not need to be big or substantial, just small, quick changes in posture to break up that prolonged posture.  Instead of sending an email to a colleague in another office, walk over to ask your questions.  If you are answering calls occasionally, standing up to answer the call can be a nice way to break that posture up, even just standing up for 30 seconds or so while you answer the call and determine what the caller is wanting is great, before then sitting back down to address the callers needs.  The same goes for reading emails, a quick change of posture to stand and scan through an email on your phone or computer before then sitting down to reply to it. 

For those who are driving for a living and are in a truck or car for prolonged periods of time and can’t easily get out regularly then I would suggest changing your posture when you are driving.  A great way to do that is using a lumbar roll.  A lumbar roll is a small foam pillow that fits in the small of your back to support your low back when sitting.  They are a great piece of equipment to have in the car if you are doing any amount of driving.  If I was driving for a living I would alternate my posture between having the lumbar roll in and out when sitting.  They generally have a piece of elastic that you can wrap around the chair but personally I find they stay in place well without the elastic strap.  You may find that having the lumbar roll in for an hour and then our for an hour works well for you.  For those workers that have to stand for prolonged periods of time, having a small step to place one foot up on can be a nice way to briefly change your posture, alternating legs on the step for brief periods of time.  The other piece of equipment that can be nice if possible, is a stool to perch on for brief periods to change the posture.

There are many ways that you can break up prolonged posture at work and keep moving and just making some small changes can make a big difference to how your body and mind are feeling by the end of the day.  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to amy@thedigital.physio

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