Mobility for your Desk Job
Written by: Edward Sherako, CFW Health Fitness Specialist
When most people hear the word mobility or have a problem, they think that static stretching is the cure. The truth is that static stretching is just one technique to help with flexibility. And it is arguably not the only beneficial one. There is also massage or foam rolling which can help make lengthening more efficient when done prior to the stretch. Addressing joint problems may be necessary. A chronically tight muscle can hold a joint in a position which causes tightness or damage to the joint capsule.
Sitting at an office workstation for 8 hours can have a negative impact on mobility and cause joint pain, muscular imbalance and affect posture. The most common problems are upper and lower cross syndromes which develops when muscles in one part of the body become weakened and overstretched while muscles in the side become tight and strained. Commonly affected muscles include tight chest, hip flexors, lower back and hamstring muscles.
Now that we know how important maintaining mobility is here are some simple ways to protect yourself. The key is to avoid poor posture. It will be difficult to consciously and continuously maintain good posture at first. The body must counter gravity to sit tall instead of slumping until the skeleton lowers to the position in which it can just hang with less effort. In time sitting tall will become habitual. Roll your chair close to the keyboard so you do not need to lean forward or round your shoulders. Feet should be able to be planted on the floor and the lap should be close to horizontal. Elbows should be the same height as the keyboard. This is desk ergonomics!
Of course, moving around a lot is very important! Take walking and stretch breaks every hour or more if possible. It is not necessary to perform a yoga class unless desired, but at least opening up the chest and hips throughout the day is beneficial. Exercises are a great idea but not everyone is going to be comfortable doing a workout next to their desk. A few squats here and there is not unreasonable. As always, a balanced healthy lifestyle involving regular exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep is invaluable.
Here are a few examples to help maintain mobility at the office:
- Stand and move at least once per hour
- Take a walk at lunchtime
- Walk while having small meetings instead of sitting at a table
- Use a standing desk
- Join the company sport teams or running club
- Keep small weights or bands at your work station
- Break out of the "seated at the desktop" position and stretch often
- Use your employee wellness center
- Perform exercises at your work station