Experts have warned that the UK is suffering from a “pandemic” of physical inactivity, which is leading to 90,000 unnecessary deaths every single year. It is believed that one of the major culprits of this large-scale lack of exercise is the prevalence of sedentary nine-to-five desk jobs, which account for around 80% of UK jobs.
These sedentary lifestyles cause everyday aches, pains and injuries that greatly affect people’s quality of life. Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic’s #LivePainFree campaign aims to help people tackle the pain that affects their daily lives, which is why it’s vital to address this growth of office-based inactivity.
The shocking statistics
The dangers of sitting for extended periods of time were first observed in the 1950s, where researchers noted that London bus drivers were two times more likely to suffer a heart attack than their bus conductor colleagues. And according to American physician Dr. David Agus, sitting for five hours a day is the health equivalent of smoking a pack-and-a-quarter of cigarettes.
A more recent study concluded that middle-aged office workers are more sedentary than those aged 75+, with 45-54 year-old men spending an average of 7.8 hours per weekday seated, compared to 7.4 hours for men aged over-75.
So how are we supposed to stay active at work when the vast majority of jobs require being seated all day? Luckily, there are a handful of incredible moves you can do at work to stay active during the working day and stave off that ‘stiff’ feeling you get from long periods of inactivity.
These discreet exercises don’t take long, and won’t make you break a sweat, but will make a huge difference to how you feel.
This is a simple exercise but an effective way to improve quad strength and blood flow to the legs. Try to avoid using an ergonomic office chair, you’ll want to use a standard four-legged chair for this exercise.
Begin by standing with the chair behind you, with your knees just in front of the edge of the seat. Slowly lower yourself into the chair as you keep your back as straight as possible. When seated, wait for two seconds and then smoothly return to a standing position. Try to avoid using your arms when standing back up, the lift should come from your legs and your forward momentum.
Sitting leg swings
You’ll have to adjust your office chair so that your feet no longer touch the floor when sitting up straight, or if that doesn’t work, see if there’s a spare table you can sit on – obviously check that it’s sturdy enough!
Gently swing your legs back and forth for ten seconds, and then take a five-second break. Repeat three to five times.
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart, keep your back straight and look straight ahead. Breathe in slowly and as you exhale, slowly turn your head to the left until you are looking over your left shoulder, or as far as comfortably possible. Hold for two seconds.
Slowly breathe in as you gently turn your head to the front, and then exhale as you twist your head to the right. Hold for two seconds, and repeat this stretch 10-12 times.
The take-away from this blog is to be conscious of how much time you spend sitting for extended periods of time at work. Make sure to take regular breaks and to fit in periods of physical activity. That doesn’t necessarily mean strenuous exercise, it can be something as simple as the stretches listed above, or to use your full lunch hour to go for a walk instead of just sitting at your desk.
If you’d like to learn more, Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic provides a range of occupational health services, including on-site triage, workplace assessments, educational sessions, and ergonomic workplace set-ups.