10 Ways To Keep Active At Work (and Beat The Scourge of “Computer Posture”)

I often joke with my clients that I believe computers were invented by manual therapists to keep us in business.  This is usually followed by one of those awkward nose laughs (cue Carl Barron).   The fact of the matter is computers were invented long before even Steve Jobs became rich and famous.  Most credit an English man by the name of Charles Babbage as the inventor of the first computing device.

In any case, their popularity has steadily increased over the years.  In fact the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that 83% of us had computer access at home in 2010-11.  Along with their increasing popularity has come increased reliance and dependence.  In fact it is rare in the modern age to see a workplace that doesn’t depend on a computer. Studies have shown that the average Australian worker sits for 10 hours per day, with 7.7 hours of that at work.  The other hours are made up of “relaxation hours” like watching TV, playing games on your tablet, trawling through social media on your phone or answering emails on your laptop.

Just as their popularity has increased, so has the problems associated with this particular sedentary lifestyle. Tight neck, aching back and constant headaches are all common presenting complaints we see here at Sports & Spinal Albury that can be directly related back to sitting for extended periods of time. The problem with sitting for long periods of time is that eventually fatigue will set in. When fatigue sets in then we tend to slouch. When we slouch we increase the pressure on the intervertebral discs in our back whilst becoming over-reliant on our muscles and ligaments to hold us upright. Some important muscles become shortened, like our hip flexors and pectoral muscles, whilst other important muscles become weakened like gluteals and deep neck flexors. Eventually the wear and tear this does to your body will lead to injury and even worse…..PAIN. Pain can then significantly effect you physically, mentally and emotionally until it feels like there is no end in sight.

Luckily, a change in your sedentary behaviour can often be enough to easy if not eliminate some of these issues.  What’s more, you can make it even more fun and achievable by encouraging your work colleagues to do the same. After all, a healthy workplace can be a fantastic place to be involved in.

So here are my top 10 tips for avoiding the scourge of a computer-induced sedentary lifestyle...

  1. Get up and move for a least 60 seconds every half an hour. Set an alarm to go off if you are likely to get distracted. Or even better, get a sit stand desk and make sure you use it exactly as it was designed – to sit and stand at. Alternate doing this every half an hour.
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even one flight will make a difference. Stair climbing burns more calories per minute than jogging, whilst also helping with weight control and building muscle.
  3. Stand when answering the phone. We have already established that we sit way too much and generally we use the excuse we are just too busy. So why not stand when you are doing simple tasks at your desk like answering the phone. You will give the muscle you have been using and fatiguing a rest from the hard work of holding you in a seated position.
  4. Walk, run or ride to work. If work is too far away, drive only part of the way. Just think….you can enjoy the great weather and awesome scenery, all while starting your day off on a healthy note.
  5. Have standing or walking meetings. Who said meetings need to be in a boardroom or office? Imagine contributing to your daily step count, getting some much needed Vitamin D and releasing some of your “feel good” chemicals (Endorphins) whilst also getting work done. It’s a win win.
  6. Eat lunch “on the run”. Firstly make sure you have a break. Studies have shown that many Australian’s don’t even take a break. But why not take something to work that you can eat whilst moving. Take a walk around the block or to the local park, enjoy the change in scenery.
  7. Set a workplace challenge. Make up some teams and get active together. Things like a 10,000 step per day challenge is a great one to start with. Be sure your track your steps and set up a leader board that everyone can see. After all there’s nothing like a little bit of healthy competition to drive each other.
  8. Squat whilst you wait for the kettle to boil. Squatting has numerous benefits. Maintaining mobility, enhancing balance, can help prevent injuries, aiding muscle growth and increased fat burning are just some of them. So do 15 every time you boil the kettle.
  9. Print to the other room. Where you have the option to, printing to another room means you have to get up from the computer and get moving.
  10. Avoid sending an email to someone in the same building. Go and speak to them……..it ends up being incidental exercise and you get to socially interact with something other than that white screen in front of you.

-  Dr Vaughan Saunders

B Sc (Clin Sc) M Hlth Sc (Osteo)