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Putting your back to work as we go back to work

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Restrictions are being lifted and we’re all gradually heading back to the office.

Is your body ready? How many hours a day do you spend sitting? It’s time to start scheduling five-minute strength breaks.

Australian statistics show that 68.5% of the workforce are either sedentary or have very low levels of activity (and that statistic was pre-COVID).

Over time, sedentary occupations can lead to increased risk of injuries, neck and back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, overweight/obesity and chronic diseases. It is estimated that 70-90% of people will suffer from back pain in some form at some point in their lives.

We have all had months to recalibrate. Re-set. Re-charge. Now is your chance to set up healthy strategies at work: healthy routines, regular breaks, regular walks.

Sitting down all day for extended periods of time is detrimental to your health. It’s not all bad news though: taking regular short breaks throughout the day can deter the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Today’s article isn’t about anatomy, fibre types, anterior/posterior pelvic tilts, or intermediate/superficial layers responsible for moving our spine.

This article is aimed at giving you some practical tips and tricks to beat corporate back stiffness as we all return to our offices.

There is no single movement pattern that is best for treating lumbar spine pain. A combination of strengthening, walking, Pilates/core stabilisation movements, Hydrotherapy and coordination type patterns are best practice.

Here are five tips to help you avoid back stiffness at work:

Substitute sitting with an activity

  • Balance on one leg while talking on the phone.
  • Switch to a standing workstation
  • SIT ON A SWISS BALL – this will encourage you to sit up straight and use your postural muscles.
  • Request a treadmill
  • Standing (or holding a squat) to read a document.
  • Schedule a walking meeting.
  • Walk to deliver a message instead of emailing.
  • Take the stairs

Get organised: Plan your schedule the night before

Look at your diary: where are your meetings, is there some flexibility in your day? Could you squeeze in a quick 15-minute workout between meetings?

Schedule in your activity breaks the way you would schedule in a meeting. Be organised, write it down, and make it happen.

We’ve designed this simple movement planner for you, welcome to print it off, as a reminder (download the PDF here).

Signing up for a structured lunchtime class is a good way to make a commitment to yourself. Try a local boot-camp who plays by the social distancing rules, a yoga/pilates studio (or online class!).

You are welcome to subscribe to the Capital Hydrotherapy YouTube channel (a new workout is released each week—designed by Exercise Physiologists).

Regularly attending a class is a great way to keep you accountable and inspired.

Choose your parking wisely

Choose to park at least 1-2km away from work. Everyday. Bring your walking shoes and stretch those hips and back out before and after work. The more often you do this, the easier it will feel as it becomes part of your daily routine.

Try this simple workout

It’s time to start scheduling five min strength workouts at the office (or if you’re lucky enough to still be at home working!).

The stronger your body, the more comfortable you’ll be sitting at the office (it takes strength to sit at the desk all day with good posture!).

Do you walk at lunch? Try these five exercises before and after your walk to break up your office day:

HerWorkout: Back to Work Back Strength 

1) Prone Swimmer x10

2) Supine bicycle x10

3) Side Plank and leg lift x10

4) Standing SL Squat (hold for 2 sec) x 10

5) Standing SL Hip Abduction

You can print the PDF here and watch the two-minute IGTV teaser clip on HerCanberra Instagram later today. 

Try these office-friendly movements every hour (or two)

If you really can’t get up from your desk, do your calf raises and ankle circles while you’re sitting down—and do your pelvic floor exercises at the same time.

Alternatively, do ten wall push-ups every hour and ten-second wall squats. Set a reminder on your computer. It’s the little regular movements that help your spine.

Which tips are you likely to implement this week?

Try two tips every day for an entire week, and see what routine works best for you. It’s all about a regular routine.

Let’s get your back to work!

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