Staying Active at Your Desk

This post was written by Wiley H in Fitness, Health & Wellness

Easy stretching and mobility exercises to do during your work day.

Like most people who are fortunate enough right now to work from home, I work sitting at a desk. Typing on the laptop, reading email, meetings online, using the phone are all sedentary activities that make our bodies hunch forward in one position for long periods of time. This can lead to poor posture and bodily aches. Here are some practical tips, stretches and exercises you can incorporate into your day.

Why good posture matters
While there are many perks to working from home like the zero commute and being able to wear comfy clothes, there are a few down sides too. Many people report not working in an ergonomic setting or forgetting to take breaks. Not paying attention to your posture can lead to physical strain and pain.

Poor posture is often caused by prolonged use of smart phones, sitting, standing, slouching and ageing. According to the presentation called “Decreasing Pain by exercising at your desk” presented by Janelle Eisler Carr, NVRC Fitness and Active Living Supervisor, poor posture can lead to a whole host of problems, including:

  • Headaches and trouble concentrating
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Increased risk of rotator cuff injuries
  • Joint pain
  • Impaired balance and risk of falls
  • Decreased confidence
  • Impaired activities of daily living and decreased quality of life

Discomfort is your body’s signal to pay attention to your posture.

Tips to improve posture and decrease pain
The good news is you can improve your posture by moving around and with range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises and simple stretches. 

  1. Ensure your workstation is ergonomic – changing positions frequently from standing to sitting is ideal, but even if you can’t, make sure your workstation is configured for good posture (see illustration). 

    Good posture illustration

  2. Sit less and move more – get up from sitting every 30 minutes. Set a timer if you need to. Movement – even leisurely movement – burns calories, maintains muscle tone and improves circulation.
  3. Take micro-breaks – go refill your water glass, make your bed, gaze out the window, and say hi to your neighbours.
  4. Exercises and stretches at your desk:
    *   Close your eyes and focus on breathing (deep and wide) - inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
    *   Shoulder circles 5x each direction – focus on drawing shoulder blades down and back.
    *   Neck releases 3x each side – tilt your head from side to side and front to neutral, or slowly rotate you gently from shoulder to
         shoulder – focus on releasing muscles and tension.
    *   Rows 10x – Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Draw your elbows back past your rib cage. And focus on drawing shoulder
         blades together.
    *   Side bends 5x each side – keeping back straight, stretch arm overhead and bend gently to the sides.
    *   Seated torso twists 10x – engage your core and slowly twist to left and right.
    *  Take a 6-minute break with Yoga at Your Desk with Adriene:
  5. Stand up while talking on the phone or participating in an online meeting. Like your mother would say, stand up straight! And engage your core! 
  6. Go for a walk at lunchtime – there is nothing like walking for some natural, joint-lubricating exercise. The fresh air and sunshine (even the liquid kind) also freshens the mind and body.
  7. Don’t forget to keep your body nourished – drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods.

Let’s all stay healthy and flexible while we enjoy working from home. Remember, we’re all in this together – be safe and stay well.

Wiley HWiley H.

A long-time North Vancouver resident, Wiley works as a technical writer and is the current newsletter editor for the North Shore Writers’ Association. She spends her free time reading, hiking and discovering new things to try at North Vancouver Recreation & Culture!


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