Guest Post by Ryan Tollefsen, founder and team leader of Unity Home Group
Exhaustion at the end of each workday is a familiar feeling to many who work in an office. Most are quick to blame the stress from difficult clients, a too-tall workload, or a draining commute. One culprit typically overlooked is the sedentary nature of office work.
The Telltale Signs
Feeling physically and mentally drained could link to a lack of physical activity while on the job. This translates into tension and a lack of initiative to make evening or even weekend plans. Nighttime activities might include eating, maybe some TV, and falling into bed. Common physical symptoms include:
Tingling or numbness in fingers
Dry, tired eyes
Tension in the hips, shoulders, neck, and back
Sometimes it's hard to remain healthy while working in an office, whether you commute to a job or use a home office. Workers who sit most of the day must be proactive to stay healthy and keep their bodies loose. Here are three helpful steps.
Start With Posture
Sitting for extended periods often leads to slouching and other poor posture. The first step to solving problems with posture is becoming aware of your body's position. Your goal is keeping the ears lined up with the shoulders when seated to avoid leaning too far either backward or forward. Making sure the computer screen isn't too high or low can help with this issue. A number of quick exercises can help posture. When you can get up, stand against a wall with legs spread apart, hold arms at a 90-degree angle to the body, and raise and lower them. While seated, you can shrug your shoulders and prop your feet on some office supplies for comfort. Whenever possible, pull back the shoulder blades to avoid rounding. A lumbar pillow is a helpful spinal support. Also investigate the possibility of using a standup desk.
Avoid the Obvious
Physical activity for staying healthy is a real challenge if you're too busy to make it to the gym after work or at lunch. Fortunately, there are easy ways to work exercise into your workday without being obvious.
Consider cutting your commuter ride short and walking part of the distance to the office. After arriving, pace while talking on the phone. Substitute a stability ball for a desk chair. Whenever possible, take the long way when walking to a meeting, move during short breaks, and speed walk on errands. Try to get away from your desk and move, even for a five-minute walk, when it's time for lunch.
Looking at a focal point away from a screen and periodically moving your hands after taking them off the keyboard are helpful actions without being obvious. Other tips include crossing and uncrossing your legs, flexing and tightening your abs for 30 seconds and 10 reps, and periodically moving your shoulders.
Enjoy Those Stretches
Desk stretches are valuable ways to release tension that accumulates while seated. Try sitting sideways on your chair with feet on the floor and hands on the chair's back. Use your arms to twist and pull your body toward the chair to stretch your neck, chest, and spine. Loosen hamstrings and avoid lower back pain by standing, bending at the hips, and allowing your head to drop loose and arms to dangle.
Pamper shoulders and back while seated by flapping your arms like an eagle and performing neck rolls. Counteract the toll of texting and typing by placing hands on your desk with the palms down while standing. Lean forward to stretch and release tension from wrists and fingers.
It's possible for those who work in an office to help out their body by taking just a few easy steps to increase physical activity. Best of all, your co-workers will have no idea what you're up to -- unless you decide to share your tips to help them, too.
Ryan Tollefsen is the founder and team leader of Unity Home Group.