At the Office

Staying active and healthy in your workplace may be easier than you think. Things like talking a walk on your lunch hour, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking to the next office rather than sending an e-mail can help increase your physical activity in a day. Click on the links below to learn about how your frame of mind and workplace ergonomics can also help.

Frame of Mind

It can often be difficult to find the time to relax and allow the tensions of the day to evaporate away. Try some simple breathing exercises and stretches during the work day. You can also benefit from positive visualization.

Breathing Exercises:
The way to breathe in order for one to really get the full benefit of each breath is to practice ‘belly breathing’. We have been taught to breathe through the mouth deeply and raise one’s shoulders as we do so. However the more effective method would be to breathe in deeply first through your nose. As you do so, feel your belly rising as your shoulders remain as they are. Hold your breath for a count of 5, and then breathe out through your mouth. As you do so, your belly retracts. In this method of breathing, more oxygen enters the lungs and would thus put us in a more relaxed frame of mind. Although ideally done lying down, it can be done standing and sitting as well.

Visualization:
Close your eyes breathe deeply and imagine yourself in your favorite place. Places that make you feel feelings of true joy; it could be the beach, your usual food centre, friends meeting place or just a quiet spot in your neighborhood. Pretend that you’re there at that point in time, seeing your favorite things, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds associated with the place. Do this for about 10 minutes. After which, open your eyes. You should feel a whole lot better.

Stretching:
Spend about 5 minutes doing some simple stretching activity. First, rotate your head from the right, all the way to the back, to the left, down and then back. Do it very slowly and feel the stretch in your neck. Second, shrug your shoulders all the way up; pretend that you are trying to make it touch your ears. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and relax. Next, rotate your wrist in one direction slowly. Do about 10 rotations then rotate the other direction. Last, rotate the left ankle slowly about 10 rotations. Repeat with the right ankle. These stretching should stimulate blood flow throughout your body, making you feel more refreshed and relaxed.

Ergonomics

The healthy body can only tolerate staying in one position for about 20 minutes. That is why sitting on an airplane, at a desk in an office chair, or at a movie theatre becomes uncomfortable after a short time. Standing in one place, such as standing on a concrete floor at an assembly line for extended periods of time tends to cause back pain. Holding the same position slowly diminishes elasticity in the soft tissues (muscles ligaments and tendons in the back). Then, stress builds up and causes back discomfort and/or leg discomfort.

The solution is simple. Whether you’re Posture is very important both at home and on the job. Back-friendly posture is a valuable component of preventing or managing back pain while performing any activity. Incorrect posture while standing for long periods of time, sitting in an office chair, and driving are all common causes of back pain.

Standing posture

Maintaining the natural curve of the spine when standing promotes “good posture”. So what does that mean? The human spine looks a little bit like an S from the side, and maintaining those two curves is important.

  • Keep your head directly over the shoulders (i.e. “chest out, head back”)
  • Keep the shoulders directly over the pelvis
  • Tighten the core abdominal muscles
  • Tuck in the buttocks
  • Place the feet slightly apart, with one foot positioned slightly in front of the other and knees bent just a little bit (i.e., not locked)

If this posture is new it may feel strange at first, but after awhile it will feel natural. If it feels too weak or tiring, use light weights or elastic bands to work the muscles between the shoulder blades (e.g. rhomboids and middle trapezius). It will quickly get easier. If standing on a concrete floor is required at work, it is best to wear shoes with good support and cushioning. A rubber mat placed on the concrete floor will ease pressure on the back and enhance the favorable ergonomic conditions. Use a railing or box to prop one foot up while standing to help take pressure off the back. This standing position takes some practice.

Remember to change feet and positions every 20 minutes

Stress

Stress is becoming a major health and safety issue. When stress is continuous, when pressures are intense it can cause physical illness and psychological distress. When work is too fast, too heavy, or too unpleasant, stress can occur. And whether stress is caused by physical factors, such as excessive noise or emotional factors such as the pace of work, the results are the same. When stress becomes chronic, the stress responses of elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, adrenal and blood sugar can lead to heart disease and other chronic diseases.

There are many ways to relieve stress in the workplace. One simple way to quickly relieve stress is a breathing exercise. Breathing Exercises: The way to breathe in order for one to really get the full benefit of each breath is to practice ‘belly breathing’. We have been taught to breathe through the mouth deeply and raise one’s shoulders as we do so. However, the more effective method would be to breathe in deeply first through your nose. As you do so, feel your belly rising as your shoulders remain as they are. Hold your breath for a count of 5, and then breathe out through your mouth. As you do so, your belly retracts. In this method of breathing, more oxygen enters the lungs and would thus put us in a more relaxed frame of mind. Although ideally done lying down, it can be done standing and sitting as well.

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