8 Simple Ways To Improve Your Workplace Wellness

This summer was an unusual one for us; it was the first summer where Laurel and Violet were both off (before starting elementary school, Violet was in a year-round day care). And given that Jon and I both work full-time and I did not book out the entire summer in camps, it was a major juggle. There was a lot of switching work + parenting gears and a lot of running around to drop kids off at different places. I know a lot of parents who were in the same boat.

So we’re all breathing a collective sigh of relief as the school year starts and we get back to our work routines, right? To some degree, yes. But I also realize that the demands of my work combined with my intense, focused nature (both of which leave me sitting at my computer for long stretches of time) have contributed to physical woes. In some ways, the summer gear switching was actually a good thing -- it forced me to move! In the past I have toyed with the idea of a standing/treadmill desk, but, well, that has seemed hard in terms of figuring out options, space, and cost. So I’m super excited that as part of my ongoing editorial partnership with Tufts Medical Center, physical therapist Julia Kajen, PT, DPT is here today to share some great tips on how to stay active in the workplace. I’m all about baby steps and small victories so I love these tips so much!

1. Learn about the risks

Sitting isn’t dangerous per se, but sitting for long periods of time can have unexpected negative effects on your health and wellness. Prolonged sitting causes muscle disuse, which—over time and without training—can lead to muscle weakness, especially in the abdominal and gluteal muscles. This can increase the risk of back and hip pain or dysfunctions. Extreme (but plausible) results of sitting for extended periods of time include: heart disease, overproductive pancreas, colon cancer, foggy brain, strained neck, sore shoulders and back, mushy abs, tight hips, limp glutes, inflexible spine, disc damage, poor circulation, and soft bones.

2. Identify check-in points based on your work patterns

Give yourself some cues to check-in with your mind and body. Maybe it’s every email you send, Excel spreadsheet you edit, or every time you open a new tab on the computer. Pick something you do fairly often throughout the day to be your cue to move.

3. Schedule in movement

It’s ideal to take a movement break every 30-60 minutes, even if it’s just to walk around your cube or chair and sit down again. Set a recurring alarm or put a meeting on your calendar to remind you to get up and move. Added bonus: use your movement breaks to also get a drink of water (hydration through the day = good).

4. Give your neck and spine regular love

When we’re in front of computer screens for long periods of time, our necks and upper back tend to become stiff. Rotate your head to the right and left about 10 times, 3-4 times throughout the workday. Squeeze your shoulder blades back, holding for 5-10 seconds, then relax; repeat 10 times, 3-4 times throughout the workday.  It’s okay not to be in “perfect posture” at all times.

5. Move during your calls and meetings

If you have an in-person meeting, schedule it outside your office. Or if you’re on a conference call, stand, walk around your office, or even gently stretch while you’re on the phone.

6. Embrace your fidgeting!

Our bodies, especially our spines, like to be in motion instead of in a sedentary position. So, all that fidgeting you do in meetings is good for your health and provides your body with some of the mobility it craves!

7. Move during lunch

It’s common for people to eat at their desk, but take a walk during your lunch break, even if it’s just for five minutes.

8. Seize the little (less convenient) moments!

There are lots of other small ways to add more activity into your day. For example, walk to a further bathroom than the one closest to you, park further away from your workplace, get off at an earlier T or train stop, or take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if it’s just once per day. These little actions stack up!

Consistently sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, intestinal disorders, certain cancers, and metabolic syndrome.  All these ailments decrease quality of life, and prolonged sitting has also been shown to decrease psychological well-being. However, the good news is that you can decrease your risks with fairly simple habits and cultivating awareness. Take the time now to change your habits at work and enhance the amount of movement you allow yourself. You will thank yourself later!

About Tufts Medical Center

At Tufts Medical Center, the team in our Physical Therapy Department is focused on helping you restore function, improve mobility, and relieve pain so that you can enjoy your daily activities. We provide a full suite of physical therapy services, including evaluation and ongoing treatment. To find out more about our services and the process for getting treatment, contact us!

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Disclaimer: The content provided in this post is intended solely for the information of the reader. This information is not medical advice and should not replace a consultation with a medical professional.

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Tufts Medical Center. All personal commentary about workplace wellness (or, er, unwellness) are, of course, my own.