The festive season is over, and with the end of the holidays many Australians will be returning to sitting at a desk for extended periods of time, which research has shown to have a serious impact on well-being. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is urging employees and employers alike to ensure their health - and the health of their staff - isn’t compromised in the post-Christmas return to the office.
The feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and the taste of that glorious Christmas feast may feel like distant memories this week, as the holidays inevitably draw to a close. There’s no doubt about it, coming back to the office from extended time off can be a struggle. Upon returning to work, it’s important – for both physical and mental wellbeing – not to revert to long, uninterrupted periods of sitting.
Besides potentially causing musculoskeletal problems such as neck, shoulder and lower back pain, sedentary behaviour has also been associated with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancers.
Dave Hall, Chair of the APA Occupational Health group, says ‘Building movement into your working day can be a big step towards increased health and productivity’. Some of Dave’s tips for maintaining movement in the workplace include:
- The simple act of just standing up every half hour and having a five second stretch can make an immense difference.
- Take phone calls standing. In fact, use phone calls as a trigger to stand and talk.
- Drink plenty of water. Better hydration means more frequent need to go to the bathroom, as well as the need to fill up the water glass (i.e. plenty of short burst walking).
- Build a coffee / tea break routine into your day, e.g. coffee 10am, tea at 3pm. The body likes routine and after a while you will crave these breaks, which means they in turn will become an integral part of your work day.
- Walk over to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email.
- Form a group to conduct some general exercise; from a yoga class to a quick 15 minute walk. Anything is better than nothing, especially when you’re just starting out.
- Move the bin and printer away from work station areas so you need to walk to them when required.
- Make your meetings standing or walking ones. Some organisations resist the idea of walking meetings because they need whiteboards or audio-visual aids. However there are often aspects of meetings where walking, and a change of scenery, will be helpful - and possibly even more beneficial - to the meeting outcome. If notetaking is required, allocate this to someone with a small mobile device or tablet which is easily carried, meaning no one needs to be anchored to the spot just to take minutes.
- Walk to and from work or the train / bus stop, or park further away.
- Embark on a team building event such as an obstacle race or ‘steps-per-day’ challenge.
- If you’re an employer, create an office geared towards movement. Activity-based work spaces promote versatility, movement and collaboration in the work place. They may include meeting pods where people stand, more collaborative meeting areas, flexible work stations that permit more standing and movement, for example.
Physiotherapists are highly qualified in prescribing exercise programs for all sorts of scenarios, including injury prevention, chronic disease and pain management, as well as to aid general fitness and well-being. Find a physio in your area to help you design a program today by visiting choose.physio/findaphysio.
Dave Hall is available for further comment or interview.
For further information, please contact:
Tel: 03 9092 0876