“I just don’t have time to exercise because I work full time 5 days a week.” As exercise physiologists we often hear this excuse for not exercising or as a reason for the decline in someone health. But what if I was to tell you your desk job is even more reason to exercise. If you come in and tell us that you are an accountant, IT guy, or maybe a banker, I can almost guarantee you have experienced neck/shoulder pain, lower back pain, poor posture or weight gain. Sound familiar? Well the reason for this is that we, as humans, are not designed to sit still for long periods of time. Even as I sit here writing this article I can feel my upper back getting stiff.
So how do we fix this?
Well to start we need to do some simple mathematics. There are 168 hours in a week. Of those 168 hours you work 40, maybe 50 in a peak period. And let’s assume you are being good and getting your 8 hours sleep per night. That leaves us with 62-72 hours per week of free time per week. When we put it this way it seems reasonable that even the busiest of us could spare a few hours to exercise, right?
The next step is mobility. Office workers often suffer from ‘tight’ muscles as a result of sitting in one position for extended periods and poor posture. One of the most common conditions amongst this population is upper cross syndrome which generally presents as tightness in the neck/trapezius muscle and chest, and is caused by sitting on the computer with a rounded or hunched posture. In addition to this, other muscular conditions include tight hip flexors, lower back pain, and pain or discomfort in upper back. The way to alleviate this is by incorporating stretching, trigger point release, and mobility exercises into your daily routine. And contrary to popular belief these don’t take up a lot of time and most can be done seated at your desk!
Another important mode of exercise is resistance or strength training. This will provide a couple of benefits. Firstly, strong antagonists (opposite) and stability muscles will help us maintain good posture even after a long day of computer work. In addition to this strong core muscles can help reduce lower back pain on the job. Secondly, more lean muscle mass means the body needs more fuel. And as we know the key to losing weight is energy in vs energy out. That means by putting on more muscle we use more calories even sitting out our desk, and with a little tightening up of the diet you can be hitting those body composition goals in no time.
However, possibly the most concerning factor of office jobs is the amount of energy being expending through cardiovascular physical activity. And I’m not even talking about the “R” word (running). Incidental exercise, that is the non-structured physical activity we perform in our daily lives such as walking on the job and taking the stairs, significantly pales in comparison to other professions. A study by The American College of Exercise found that step-counts of office workers (e.g. clerical workers, secretaries and administrative staff) were drastically lower than jobs like waiters, firefighters, retail staff and nurses. But why does that matter? Well, steps burn calories. The study found a person of average weight (roughly 70kg) burns on average 100-105 calories per 2,000 steps. To put that in perspective, the average glazed donut contains 200 calories.
- Commence a structured exercise program that incorporates resistance training.
- Stretch daily.
- Eat well.
- Walk or run outside of work hours.
- Increase incidental exercise. Take the stairs, walk from the bus stop, etc.
- Purchase and activity tracker or switch on the app on your phone (it can be a real eye opener).
And remember, our multidisciplinary team of Exercise Physiologists, Physiotherapists and Dietitians are all here to lend you a hand in your path towards greater health. Give us a call and book in your free initial health consultation today!