We spend most of our working days sitting at our desks or in meetings. Even the commute to and from work is spent in a seat. When at home, more often than not, we’re switching between a smartphone, laptop or TV. So, it is no surprise that a growing number of Australians are suffering from back problems and other health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture.
While sitting down for long periods at work cannot be entirely avoided, there are small steps we can take to improve our posture and incorporate exercise in our daily routine, cultivating good habits for optimal spinal health.
Every Little Helps
It can be daunting to overhaul your lifestyle but the good news is that you don’t have to. Making little changes in your daily routine is a sustainable way to improve your health in the long run.
Prevention is certainly better than cure and cultivating good habits is a great place to start. For example, you could:
- Get off at an earlier stop or park further away from the office;
- Take the stairs instead of the lift; or
- Try to stand up whenever possible, e.g. when on the phone or talking to colleagues.
If you have a height adjustable desk, try to stand as much as possible when you are working. If your workplace does not offer standing desks, it may be a good idea to request one.
Improving your posture, incorporating stretching into your daily routine and staying active can prove beneficial for your spinal health and overall well-being.
Assess and Correct
Being aware of things which may be impacting your health and correcting these can help improve your spinal health. This is especially important when it comes to your posture.
Pay attention to the way you sit at work – avoid hunching or slouching at your desk. Sit back in your chair and make sure your back is well-supported by the chair. Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips and keep your feet flat on the floor.
Also, take a moment to assess your office desk. Are there any elements that are stressing or straining your body? Keep the mouse and telephone within easy reach so you don’t have to stretch to reach them. Adjust your computer screen so that your neck is in a neutral position and be mindful of your posture while sitting.
Take a Break
Our spines are not designed to be stationary for long periods. Taking a break from your seat and screen every so often is important. Try to avoid sitting in the same position for longer than 30 minutes and walk around whenever possible. The simple act of getting up and walking around your desk can have a profound effect on how you feel.
It is easy to forget to take a break when we are busy at work. So, set an alarm on your phone to remind you or use the reminders on the Straighten Up (Australia) app.
Make Time to Exercise
Australia’s Department of Health recognises that being physically active and limiting sedentary behaviour is vital for good health and well-being. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults aged 18-64 years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic, physical activity throughout the week. Many of us are not able to meet this target even with the best intentions.
The thought of exercising after a long day’s work may not sound particularly enticing but it is important to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. This could be swimming, cycling, walking the dog or dancing. If it is an activity you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it.
When you get back home from the office, try not to sit in front of the TV or browse your phone. Take this time to detox from technology and go for a walk. Not only does this have immense mental and physical benefits, you will find that you have more time to do the things you enjoy and connect with the people around you.
‘Keeping the Workforce Moving’ is the theme for the CAA Annual Conference this year.
For more information on maintaining a healthy spine, please visit the website of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia at www.chiropractors.asn.au
 Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, The Department of Health, available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines