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We look into the issues surrounding sedentary jobs and what we can do to help

We now live in a world where sedentary, desk based jobs form the highest percentage of work environments. We are typically working longer hours and less than 3% of desk-based workers in the UK admit to taking a full hour for lunch

When was the last time you took an hour break at lunch? Furthermore, what do you do at lunch? 
Many of my patients admit to eating at their desk – reporting that it is easier, less disruptive and more convenient. 

Whilst this may seem reasonable from a workload perspective, this type of behaviour day in, day out can lead to issues in the body and even reduce productivity. 

Many aches and pains can stem from not moving enough in the day. The most common issues I see are:
– Neck pain
– Headaches
– Wrist and elbow pain
– Back pain
– Sciatica 
– Joint stiffness
– Loss of muscular strength
– Mid back pain
– Generally feeling lethargic and achy. 

These conditions can make getting through the working day exhausting. It is not uncommon for people with these conditions to struggle with exercise. If you hurt at work, why would you go to the gym and hurt even more?! The sofa can seem a lot more appealing. 

This behaviour can lead to a never-ending cycle of pain — lack of energy — lack of exercise — pain… etc etc. 

So how do we change this?

Here are a few tips to make the sedentary day… well, less sedentary!!

1) Reminders: Set an alarm on your phone or watch to trigger you to move after 30 minutes. This does not need to be a long walk. Getting up to move around the office or simply standing to do a few stretches will help. 

2) Put things deliberately out of reach: Move printers, copiers, water bottles etc out of reach so you have to physically move to get to them.

3) Use a small water bottle: This will encourage you to get up to fill it more often.

4) DO NOT eat lunch at your desk: Get a change of scenery, this is good both physically and mentally. It is important to have a separate area for downtime and relaxing. 

5) Stretch regularly when sitting: Stretching should not only be done when you feel the need to. Try to get into a habit of stretching every 20-30 minutes in sitting, even if you do not feel you have to. Prevention is better than cure – our joints need movement all the time. 

6) Engage in exercise: Whether this is walking at lunch time, walking to the train station, cycling, running or joining a gym – start small and build up. Exercise has been shown time and time again to reduce risk of injury, improve mood and productivity, help to maintain weight and improve our strength and cardiovascular fitness. There is no reason to not be doing any…. the benefits are endless so start something today!!

7) Good desk set-up: I have deliberately left this until last. I agree that we should all have an ergonomically sound desk set up. However, this does not mean that you can extend the time you spend sitting. Even the worlds best and most expensive chair will not prevent back pain in someone who sits in it 6 hours straight every day! Be cautious that you still try to implement the above, even with a good set up. 

If you are still suffering with aches and pains that seem to be triggered by prolonged sitting, book in to see us for an assessment. The above is general advice only and this can be tailored to suit each individual. 

Thank you for reading. 

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Our clinic is based at 5 Upper Wimpole Street in Marylebone and we can be reached on 0207 935 7344 weekdays from 8am - 6pm.

Wimpole Street Physiotherapy Clinic

5 Upper Wimpole Street
Marylebone, London
W1G 6BP

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