Countless issues have arisen in the last month which has dramatically impacted upon our working lives; from the closure of crèches and schools to the mass opening of temporary home offices across the country. While this undoubtedly will contribute to the containment of COVID-19, we need to set ourselves up appropriately in our make-shift office environments to minimise the effect of these potentially un-ergonomic spaces on our posture and spinal health. Likewise if you are self-isolating and find yourself sitting for prolonged periods of time, you are also putting excess strain on your back.
This article will include some helpful tips to optimise your home working space and also some short instructional videos on how to include regular activity stretches throughout the day to address the muscles imbalances that can arise due to prolonged sitting.
How to sit better
This video provides instructions on how to assume the correct posture while seated at a desk. In summary
- Both feet flat on the floor
- Uncross ankles and knees
- Thighs parallel to floor
- Sit on both sit bones equally
- Tuck chin in to lengthen back of neck
- Shoulders back and in line with ears
- Shoulders in line with hips
If you do not have a desk and are perching on kitchen stools or slumping on couches over coffee tables, try to adapt your position so that you are achieving as many of the above alignments as possible. For example, if you are using a kitchen stool, place a number of big books under your feet until both feet can be flat on the books and thighs parallel to the floor. If you are sitting on the couch, move towards the front end of the couch, shift your weight as to sit evenly on both sit bones and allow the spine to extend up. To avoid straining the neck muscles, position the top of your monitor to just below eye level. If working with a laptop alternate between propping the laptop up on books when performing reading activities to having it flat on a table for typing tasks so that elbows can be at 90 degrees.
Regular Activity Breaks
We know now that prolonged time spent sitting is as bad for your cardiovascular health as smoking. Furthermore, it is a significant contributor to chronic musculoskeletal problems including disc degeneration, nerve impingement and low back pain. For these reasons, it is now recommended that we take a 2-3 minute break from sitting every 30 minutes. We can use these 3 minutes to address some of the muscle imbalances that can occur due to too much sitting such as weak leg muscles and rounded shoulders. This next instructional video includes 4 stretches that can be scattered throughout your working day/week and will help improve your overall posture.
Undoing the Sitting
Finally, even if you sit with good posture and take regular activity breaks, excessive sitting leads to a build up of pressure in the lower back. Also, constantly rounding your shoulders over stretches the back muscles and impedes the ability of your rib-cage to expand, an important component of effective breathing. This last video will address these two issues and take you through a series of movements to release both the upper and lower back and restore your spine to optimal functioning and ready to sit another day!