Staying active at the office

Woman at desk, experiencing back pain

Moving around and being active can have a positive impact not just on your physical health, but on your mental health as well. It can cause our brains to release mood-enhancing chemicals and help alleviate brain fog. But, it can be hard to stay active and get the exercise you need when you’re working a 9-to-5 desk job. The average person spends about 13 hours a day sitting, and that can have harmful effects on your health. In fact, prolonged sitting is considered such a deadly habit that it has been compared to smoking.

Aches and Pains Associated With Desk Jobs  

Years of sitting at a desk day after day can take its toll on your body in ways you might not even realize.

Lower Back Pain – Lower back pain is the most common ailment associated with prolonged sitting. When sitting for too long, you are prone to slumping and slouching, which an cause stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissues of your spine. This can lead to pain in the neck and back

Wrist and Elbow Strains – Long days of typing on your computer or writing can lead to wrist and elbow injuries. Being hunched forward at your computer restricts blood flow and can lead to tingling, numbness and pain in your extremities. The repetitive motion of typing and writing causes fatigue that leads to inflammation of the tendons. 

Neck and Shoulder Pain – One of the main causes of neck and shoulder pain associated with desk jobs comes from improper positioning of the keyboard. When the keyboard is set too far away on your desk, it forces you to reach with your neck and shoulders. This throws your spine out of alignment and can eventually lead to muscle and soft tissue strain. Doing this day after day can cause persistent neck and shoulder pain.

Tight Hips – When you are seated for long periods of time, your hip flexors begin to shorten and feel tight. Tight hips can even contribute to soreness in your lower back.

More Serious, Long-Term Effects Of Sitting

While the physical aches and pains associated with desk jobs are numerous, various long-term health issues can also arise from sitting in the office day after day, such as: diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression and osteoporosis.

What You Can Do At Your Desk To Offset The Effects Of Sitting

You can make physical changes to your work environment that can help you combat the harmful effects of sitting, like replacing your chair with a Swiss ball or swapping out your standard desk for a standing desk 

But, you can also do simple things that don’t require an office space makeover. Here are a few examples of simple exercises that anyone can do without leaving the office:

Head Nod Series – For this exercise, first bring your chin to your chest and hold it there for a full inhale and exhale. Then, lift your head up toward the ceiling and hold again for a full breath. For the second part of the series, start with your head back in its neutral position and tilt your right ear down toward your right shoulder and hold for one breath, then bring your head back to neutral and repeat for the left shoulder. For the third movement in the series, bring your head back to neutral and then rotate it in small clockwise circles, then move on to counterclockwise circles.

Shoulder Rolls and Shrugs – This is an excellent exercise to help alleviate shoulder pain and tightness. To perform this exercise, keep your hands neutral by your side and roll your shoulders forward three times. Then repeat the motion rolling your shoulder backward. Next, bring the shoulders to their neutral position and shrug them up toward the ears. Then drop the shoulders down. Repeat this three times.

Seated Or Standing Y’s – This simple exercise will help increase upper back and shoulder strength. Sit upright in your chair with a neutral spine and good posture, then spread your fingertips and place the outside of the pinky fingers on your thighs with thumbs facing the ceiling. Keep a soft bend at the elbow, lift the arms into the air in a ‘Y’ shape, and then return back to the starting position. Do this for 10—15 reps.

Wrist Flexion and Extension – To help with wrist pain associated with typing and writing, simply alternate bringing your hand upward as if gesturing “stop,” then bring your palms down as far as they will go like the follow-through from shooting a basketball.

Ankle Alphabets – This one is as easy as ABC. To stretch and strengthen the muscles in your lower legs and ankles, draw each letter of the alphabet with your foot as you are sitting at your desk. Then switch sides and repeat the alphabet with your other foot.

Frequent Change of Posture– Get up and move around every 30 minutes. Take a walk around your desk

How Wilmington Health Can Help

If you are experiencing any of the aches, pains or health-related issues associated with sitting — or just want to be proactive and prevent the effects — physical therapy could be the answer.

If you’re experiencing any health-related issues stemming from your desk job, reach out to learn about how Wilmington Health’s Physical Therapy can help.