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Published: 16 July 2019 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Wellbeing, Workplace health

When most of us think about being healthy, we tend to focus on what we eat, the meals we make at home and what exercise we are going do this week and when we can fit it in.

For you it might be first thing in the morning before work whilst for others it’s their lunch break, after work or on the weekends. But one thing we rarely think about is how much our time in the work place affects our health and wellbeing.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of work life and the daily grind. Before you know it, you’ve skipped lunch in order to finish an urgent project a deadline, you’re in desperate need of a coffee and you’re slumped over your desk wishing that the day would hurry up and end so you can go home.

With most of us spending 8-10 hours a day it work, it is imperative that we look after ourselves in the office and turn that “daily grind” into a “daily shine!”. Here, we share our favourite five habits for maintaining health at the office.

Five ways to stay healthy in the office:

1. Keep moving

While it may be tempting to eat lunch at your desk - getting up, having a stretch and going for a walk outside can do wonders for your motivation levels while also allowing you to correct your posture and move your body from its sedentary state.

It has been shown that spending long amounts of time in front of a computer screen eventually leads to decreased concentration levels and fatigue so by getting up and moving around, you will find yourself feeling refreshed and more motivated, even if you do only get outside the office for a short break.

If you have a really urgent deadline, make sure you stand up regularly to fill a water bottle or talk with a colleague.

Stretching at your desk also helps to combat soreness or stiffness, tiredness, and poor concentration.

2. Optimise your workspace

Most of us are at work for at least eight hours a day, much of that time is spent at our desks. The way your workspace is set up, defined as ergonomics, may or may not be having a negative effect on your long-term health.

During the assessment of an injury or pain, your physiotherapist would consider potential factors which could be the cause of your concern – particular attention is paid to the amount and type of physical activity you do as well as your working environment.

If your health concern is deemed to be a side effect of your work place set up, your physio may insist on an assessment of your workspace to tailor it to you rather than the work environment, task or equipment.

Basic considerations include choosing a desk chair with multiple adjustments (height, seat tilt, backrest etc), which can be tailored to your posture and position for comfort. How you place your feet on the floor, and position your keyboard and mouse in such a way that you don’t strain or overreach for them.

Some people even go to the extent of using a stand up desk, allowing them to stand up while they work!

Ensuring the top of your computer monitor and screen fall within your horizontal line of sight and most importantly taking regular breaks from the computer screen will help you avoid eye strain.

A good guide to follow is the 20/20/20 technique. After 20 minutes of screen time, break it up with 20 seconds of looking at an object that is 20 metres away.

3. Pilates

Pilates exercises are used the world over by professional athletes, dancers, actors, models and high-profile people who need to get the most from their bodies. Motion Health practices offer clinical Pilates, a series of carefully modified core exercises that are guided by a physiotherapist.

Clinical Pilates is more wellness and injury treatment and prevention based, with the aim of increasing balance and coordination, improving posture, or reducing back pain.

If you find that sitting still at your desk for too long is causing back pain or contributing to poor posture you may want to consider clinical Pilates. In fact, recent studies have shown that Pilates is beneficial for those suffering from chronic lower back pain.

4. Physio balls

If you are sitting for extended periods of time at your desk, you may like to replace your regular desk chair with a physio ball (or fit ball) for a few hours a day. The body has two types of postures, static and dynamic.

Static refers to the body’s position when it is stationary i.e. when we are sitting, standing, or lying down. Dynamic posture refers to when we walk, run, reach, lift etc.

When you substitute a physio ball for your desk chair, your posture changes from static to dynamic. In this dynamic postural environment, there is demand for continuous change in your posture to support the strengthening of muscles and better core control.

If you work in a job that doesn’t require a lot of sitting, use a physio ball in the comfort of your own home whilst watching TV. Start off with 5-10 minutes and work on increasing the time the stronger you get. It’s great for the whole family to try.

5. Hydration

When you’re concentrating for long periods, it’s easy for time to fly on by. In addition to regular breaks from sitting and your computer screen, it’s also important to drink more water!

Dehydration affects both our body and mind and works against optimal functioning. It can result in a number of unhealthy symptoms including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, extreme thirst, brain fog and confusion.

Your body loses water naturally through sweat, breathing, and physical activity, which is why it is so important to stay hydrated and replace this loss.

Remember to eat nutritious foods that support healthy hydration – a healthy salad for lunch topped with grilled chicken or nuts for vegetarians, helps to support the body’s balance all round.

In conclusion

By taking on board these five simple tasks of regular breaks, a well set up workspace, staying hydrated and supporting your core and posture with Pilates and a physio ball, your day at work will not only build your bank account but also support you on your way to health and happiness!