Do you struggle with neck and back pain? I bet you do if your job requires using a computer all day long. Sitting for hours has a lot of negative consequences on your body – severe physical discomfort and chronic pain, among others. Today I’d like to help you discover all the ways to release the tension and feel well again. Simple things like taking a walk or standing up from time to time can help as well as practicing yoga regularly or going to the chiropractor. But let’s see first how the sedentary lifestyle impacts your body and health.
Sitting in the car or public transport, sitting at work or while working from home, sitting on the couch while watching a TV show or a movie… In the past decades, we’ve invested so much time and effort into making our lives easier and more comfortable. Unfortunately, this path is actually taking us far from our happy (and healthy!) place. The more we sit, the higher the chances are we’ll get serious health issues.
The Sedentary Behaviour Research Network (SBRN) define in this article the sedentary behavior as ‘any activity involving sitting, reclining, or lying down that has a very low energy expenditure’. But why is chilling on the couch or sitting comfortably behind your desk so bad for you?
According to a report published by the American National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, ‘people who are physically active generally live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.’.
Therefore, the stiff neck or the sore lower back might be just signs that something worse is going on. According to the same paper, adults should be physically active for at least 5 hours per week. And we’re not counting going to the fridge and back as physical activity.
Unfortunately, the sedentary lifestyle is becoming a public health issue. Another research by the National Center shows that only half of the adults meet the aerobic physical activity guidelines. But how to be part of the solution and avoid getting stuck in the sedentary lifestyle?
I know you’re busy and I know it’s difficult to find time for physical activity. Five hours per week sure sounds like a lot of time, especially when you already have a completely packed schedule. Anyway, I’ve come up with some activities which you can do in-between your tasks or which you can try to implement in your routine as they’re not time-consuming.
Not to mention that it’s worth investing a bit of time in reducing the chances of chronic health issues and mental health disorders. At the end of the day, all of your tasks and endeavors won’t matter anymore if you’re not in good health.
Here are some actions which will help you significantly reduce the amount of sedentary time you spend daily:
1. Walk or bike instead of using public transport or your car
If you live too far away, you can always get off one stop earlier or park the car farther away from the spot you’ve got to reach.
2. Stand when commuting with public transport
This can be tiring for your lower back but if you sit you just close the vicious circle ‘sitting —> being in pain —> sitting’.
3. Take a walk during your lunch break
If you’re working as a freelancer, embrace the solopreneur lifestyle. It allows you to take a break and spend it in a healthy way. I know from my own experience that it’s difficult to leave everything, especially when you’re into the flow. But walking for a bit has not only physical but mental advantages: it gives you the possibility to switch off and get some much-needed creativity boost.
4. Stretch every hour
Try creating the habit of stretching or doing some exercises for a couple of minutes every hour. You can set a reminder and stretch your body while taking a healthy break.
5. Walk while you talk
If you have scheduled a longer phone call and you don’t need your computer to check something related to the conversation, it’s not necessary to sit behind your desk. Go outside and have a walk while discussing whatever it is you need to discuss.
6. Get a standing desk
Influenced by all of the negative research data, many office furniture companies started producing height adjustable standing desks. Get one of those and make sure you change your position a couple of times per day. It’s important to underline that while standing, you shouldn’t hang on one of your hips or lock your knees.
7. Take the stairs
While I was working in one of the largest office buildings in Amsterdam, I was taking the stairs every single time. As I was commuting from another city and the company didn’t allow enough breaks throughout the day, this was the only possibility to be active. This was a horrible period in my life! Anyway, I still remember how nice it was to climb the stairs as quick as I can and feel that I’m still alive.
8. Do some sports
After having a busy day, the easiest thing is to turn on the TV and switch off your brain. But this way of spending your free time only leads to more sitting. If you’re mentally tired, get physically tired as well! This will help you get rid of the stress piled up throughout the day.
9. Do a digital detox
Try spending from time to time a whole day without technology. For example, you can decide that next Saturday you won’t use your TV, computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone at all. This simple decision will wake up your imagination and you’ll do something related to movement instead. Walk in the park, do some sports, work in the garden, get to know your city better… Anything is allowed besides using your gadgets!
I highly recommend reading the article The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Digital Detox to take the most out of this experiment.
The world would be a happier place if it were possible to prevent all the pain and suffering. Unfortunately, sometimes either it’s too late, or the pain occurs in your body even though you’re following the quoted guidelines.
From my own experience, there are three things you can do if the pain won’t go away and it just gets worse.
1. Start swimming
Doing sports might be a challenge when having physical discomfort. However, swimming is recommended in almost all cases of chronic pain. The reason for this is simple: water provides support for the human body without applying pressure to the bones and joints. Without any stress on the skeletal system, you’ll be able to sport even if you already have severe pain. Therefore you can increase your muscle strength and with time reverse the damage done by leading a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Practice yoga
Yoga is care for your body and mind. It helps you loosen even the tiniest muscle. Anyway, you shouldn’t expect quick results – the secret to pain relief is consistency. Years of having a bad posture and sedentary lifestyle have led to the discomfort you have now, so you can’t anticipate miracles within a couple of yoga lessons.
Check out The Best Yoga Sequences for Back Pain if you want to practice yoga from the comfort of your home. I have to warn you though: it’s way different (and according to me – better!) if you go to a yoga class with a certified teacher.
3. Visit a specialist
Don’t be afraid of going to a specialist, like chiropractic of physiotherapist. This might be the ultimate solution to your physical discomfort! Nowadays, there are effective treatments which can affect not only the chronic pain you have but also your overall well-being.
You know best what feels right and what kind of lifestyle you want to have. But don’t forget that you have only one body that should carry that beautiful soul of yours throughout its journey on Earth. So you’d better take good care of it!
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