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Let’s Get Fidgety: Six Desk Stretches to Improve Posture and Energy

How many of you have experienced low back pain, tense muscles, decreased energy, or swollen ankles from sitting for too long? My hand is raised (while the other one is rubbing the tension from my shoulders *sigh*). Unfortunately, the majority of us are in seated jobs, whether in an office environment or in a vehicle. While it is nice to have jobs, it’s not so nice for our health to sit this much.

Studies show that sitting for prolonged periods of time is associated with poor health, both mentally and physically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The average office worker reports spending over 75% of their average 8-hour work day seated, and over 8 hours of their entire day seated (2). We also sit for prolonged periods of time, at least 30 minutes straight (3), which seems less like the norm when many of us are in meetings or simply get into a work flow that can last hours at a time without moving from our desk.

Research also shows that sitting for prolonged periods of time places twice as much pressure on the spine (2), and is associated with increased risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease, musculoskeletal disorders like low back pain, poor cognitive function and associated diseases, and inflammation (1, 3, 4, 5). No bueno.

While this doesn’t exactly paint a picture of unicorns jumping over rainbows, there are many lifestyle changes we can implement to help reduce these risk factors. For instance, studies aren’t perfect and these studies do not take into account daily habits such as our food choices, exercise, stress management, or even proper desk ergonomics. So let’s focus on two key factors today, exercise and ergonomics, and take action!

Exercise: Check out this video (which is also featured below) for stretches and exercises you can do at your office (and some while driving or on an airplane). Tip: the best posture is a changing posture—sit, stand, walk (5), fidget (4), and everything in-between. One study found that simply tapping your heels can significantly increase circulation, which promotes a whole list of goodness (4). Set a timer or schedule breaks, just do what you need to do to get out of your chair and move your body. It’s also helpful to incorporate movement into your daily routine, whether that’s weights, walking, basketball, running, dancing, yoga, or Pilates—it’s all good. If you aren’t exercising on a consistent basis, start with one day a week and work from there. Progress, not perfection.

Ergonomics: Many companies want their employees to be happy, healthy, and productive. With that being said, inquire about ergonomically correct office furniture and equipment such as a standing desk, and a proper chair, keyboard, and mouse. Some companies may require a note from a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor; however, your health is well worth the extra effort and visit.

I’d love to know, what do you do to add more movement into your day? Also, what changes have you made to your work environment so you can have better posture and more movement at work? The more ideas shared, the better!

If you found this post and video helpful, please share them.

With love, Steph

1. Baker, R., Coenen, P., Howie, E., Williamson, A., & Straker, L. (2018). The short term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged sitting during office computer work. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 1678-1693.

2. Kwon, Y., Kim, J. W., Heo, J. H., Jeon, H. M., Choi, E. B., & Eom, G. M. (2018). The effect of sitting posture on the loads at cervico-thoracic and lumbosacral joints. Technology and Health Care, 26, S409-S418.

3. Daneshmandi, H., Choobineh, A., Ghaem, H., & Karima, M. (2017). Adverse effects of prolonged sitting behavior on the general health of office workers. Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 7(2), 69-75.

4. Morishima, T., Restaino, R. M., Walsh, L. K., Kanaley, J. A., Fadel, P. J., & Padilla, J. (2016). Prolonged sitting-induced leg endothelial dysfunction is prevented by fidgeting. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 311, H177-H182.

5. Carter, S. E., Draijer, R., Holder, S. M., Brown, L., Thijssen, D. H. J., & Hopkins, N. D. (2018). Regular walking breaks prevent the decline in cerebral blood flow associated with prolonged sitting. Journal of Applied Physiology, 125, 790-798.

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