This month’s Guest Blog is written by Christopher Smith, Founder of ZipFit a personal training company which gets you fit fast.
For someone like myself – an outdoors person, I am staggered by how energy zapping it is to sit behind a desk all day long staring at a computer screen. I find my eyes twitching, my brain pulsing, my mind heavy from a dense fog created by my thoughts. I’m moving less yet I’m completely exhausted, which is very disconcerting.
It makes me realise how, over time, we can become conditioned to any environment we like or live in.
So what is this ability we all have to change with our environment? In simple terms it is about repetition and neurological adaption. Our bodies learn movement patterns. Given that so many of us are chained to the desk these days, are we spending too much time behind desks and what exactly is happening to our body?
When you sit at your desk you are bent, both at the knee and your hips. The result is shortened hamstrings and hip flexors. Over time your hip flexors will remain short, which means you may end up leaning forward whilst you walk. To make matters worse, constant sitting leads to inactivity of your bottom muscles, to the point that those big muscles no longer fire (excuse the terminology!). The problem this causes, apart from the fact that your bottom muscles are the largest muscles on the human body and therefore can do a great job of burning fat, is that weak glutes and hip flexors cause the pelvis to tilt, putting your lower back under an enormous amount of strain. And if your crossing your legs whilst reading this (cue mass uncrossing of legs!) that will eventually lead to hip instabilities and can create huge problems when you come to do something a little more active or adventurous.
The pelvis is the central point of the body, it relies on muscular balance, it supports and stabilises both your upper and lower body, so if your pelvis is out of line you can guarantee that other parts of your frame will suffer, including your spine. Long term this will affect your posture and your central nervous system.
If your shoulders are rounded as you slump over your desk, this leads to chronic neck and upper back pain. You are essentially compressing the disks in your spine, shortening your chest muscles, which in turn leads to incredibly tight upper back muscles and tension and often bad headaches.
If you’ve been office bound since the start of your career, by the time you’re in your 40’s or 50’s, you may have created damage which is incredibly difficult to undo. In the same way I tell a client not to exercise everyday – too much of anything is fundamentally bad for us.
Try the following tips to keep your muscles active and stretched:
- Stand as much as you can at work. Annoying as it might be for your fellow office workers, pace up and down when you’re on the phone. Make an excuse to go for a walk around your office and create a circuit for some good old thinking time.
- Take the stairs not the lift, both up and down.
- Do some backward shoulder rolls. The opposite action to being slumped over your desk.
- Find some space to lie on your back for 10 minutes. Stretch out in this position, relax and take some deep breathes.
We all need to start thinking about how to make our working day more active, so we can find the balance and get through years of office work unscathed.
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