The fact that the majority of us can do our work from home right now is amazing, but our bodies weren’t designed to be so confined and sedentary! However, we are all humans who are wired to take the path of least resistance. For many of us right now, it might look a little like this: wake up, log on, work, log off, eat, sleep, repeat.
This may be great for flattening the curve, but not as ideal for our body. Keeping active, whether it be incidentally or through structured movement, is undoubtedly the harder choice to make when everything is within such easy reach at home.
We were made to move
From a behaviour change perspective, it is widely accepted that people will only instigate change when the pain of staying the same becomes too much to bear. You might be noticing the warning signs yourself – feeling sluggish, tired even though you are getting more sleep than usual, unmotivated, achy, sore, unfocused. Sound familiar? What if the symptoms you are experiencing were not just a lack of caffeination, but rather your body crying out for movement? The very anatomy of humans tells us that we were designed to get around on two feet, rather than the wheels of our desk chairs and cars.
This pandemic has inadvertently removed a lot of our incidental activity – our commutes, coffee runs, moving between office spaces, walking meetings and general activity of our systems have all been drastically reduced. Add to this the closure of gyms and pools, cessation of sport, restricted options to socialise, and we are looking at a net reduction in energy expenditure which we have to consciously try to win back.
Resist the sit
Amongst other significant health conditions, prolonged sitting has been shown to decrease the amount of blood that flows to your brain – in the short term, this feels like impaired cognitive performance (feeling fuzzy, forgetful), but in the long term actually poses risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. The good news is, it was found that blood flow reductions to the brain were ameliorated by getting up and walking around for 2 minutes every half an hour.
Practically, this might look like:
- ‘Walking to and from work’ each day with a lap around the block
- Standing up and moving around during phone calls
- Setting a timer for every 30 minutes and simply standing up for a stretch, or taking a walk around the house
Avoiding the aches and pains
When it comes to the musculoskeletal impact of sitting, think of the adage “your next move is your best move”. We were not designed to hold any posture (even the most ergonomic one) for long periods of time. Common issues with sitting include the hips in prolonged flexion, glute muscles switching off, head drifting forward, and upper back slouching.
Evidence supports the notion of ‘piggybacking’ habits (tying them to ones that already exist) – you could try completing a chest stretch in the doorway every time you walk through to your home office, or taking a thigh stretch before you sit back in your chair each time.
The take home message: Working from home in a pandemic doesn’t mean that your health and fitness needs to press pause – in fact, we all need to prioritise physical activity more than ever!
Carter, S.E., Draijer, R., Holder, S.M., Brown, L., Thijssen, D.H. and Hopkins, N.D., 2018. Regular walking breaks prevent the decline in cerebral blood flow associated with prolonged sitting. Journal of applied physiology.
Lieber, M., 2016. Implementing tiny goals after current habits to create consistent healthy lifestyle routine.