If you are thinking “awesome, I finally have the perfect ergonomic position at my workstation; my eyes line up with the top of the monitor, I’ve got my lumbar support chair, my hips are at a comfortable 90 degrees, my feet are propped up to the exact right height, now I mustn’t budge from this position,” then you may need to adjust priorities.
Something we emphasise with our office-worker clients is that while ergonomic set-up is certainly helpful, the most important tool to prevent sedentary work injury is to move. Often that stiffness in your neck or back when you wake up in the morning isn’t because you slept wrong, or your desk isn’t set up right, it is most likely because you did not move enough the previous day.
Here are some tips to fit movement into your day:
- Set a timer for every 15 minutes to do some sort of movement (you can cycle between quick neck stretches, a few sit-to-stand movements, walking… listen to your body)
- Many people have trouble doing the above as they want to “get stuck into” a task for a longer period without distractions. This is fine, instead you can compensate by taking longer movement breaks when you finish tasks.
- Another alternative to a timer is connecting movement to daily habits that you have already developed such as getting a coffee, going to the bathroom, or collecting printing. Every time you do one of these habitual tasks, let that be a reminder to do a quick movement for instance:
- 10 squats
- 20 heel raises
- 15 wall push-ups
- Walk up and down a staircase
- Have a small cup of drinking water so that you need to walk to fill it up frequently
- Choose to use a bathroom that is the furthest from your desk
- Use the stairs whenever you can
- If you have a sit to stand desk, change from sitting to standing (or vice versa) every hour
- Take standing/walking meetings
- Give your colleague a message in person rather than sending an email
- See our Facebook page for some simple stretches to break up your day
- Smart watches have great apps to remind you to move
- Go for a walk at lunch time – even 5 minutes makes a difference!
It will take time to develop these habits. Try adding one or two of these movements to your day, and when they have become habitual, then you can try adding more. Time should not be a barrier to beginning a movement habit, once these become integrated into your day you should find that you will become more alert and efficient in your other tasks.