You hit the gym everyday, eat right and stay thoroughly hydrated, get your 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
But for whatever reason you just can’t seem to get rid of this chronic back pain. Unfortunately, our jobs aren’t always so great when it comes to our health and fitness goals. It’s not that your consistent workout efforts are in vain, you just need to view other areas of your life as platforms to help build your health. As great as some of our jobs are, they might not have us in the most optimal positions for most of our days. Many have a long commute to and from work with very little activity in between except for lunch breaks and going from meeting to meeting. With the amount of work hours many of us are putting in on a regular work week, there’s a lot of room for your body to be immobile and prone to chronic pains from a less than optimal position.
Thankfully, many have come to this realization and ergonomic office furniture is becoming more available but the price tag is still pretty high. Thankfully you don’t have to go out and spend money to begin turning your workstation into another platform to expand your fitness. Building an ergonomic desk area is a critical part of your health. The hours spent in the gym for the average corporate lifter can be anywhere from 3-6 hours per week. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but let’s run a quick breakdown of how most of us spend our time throughout the week.
A full week, including weekends, has 168 hours. About 50 of those hours are spent at work, that’s almost 30% (and let’s be honest, some of us are way over that percentage). We all have some work to do when it comes to sleep, myself included, but I’ll be positive and let’s just say we’re getting at least 6 hours of sleep per night which would put sleep at about 25%, not too shabby. The rest of our week is divided between our commutes during the work week, running errands on the weekend, preparing meals and our time at the gym which itself only makes up 3% of our week on the high end. My point? If working takes up such a large chunk of our time on a weekly basis, shouldn’t we do something to make it work alongside our fitness routine instead of against it?
Optimize Your Workstation for Maximum Health
So let’s begin! The following are simple but effective ways you can turn your desk into an ergonomic temple. These tips will result in decreased lower back pain, upper back tightness, and overall better posture. This information has been sourced from the UCLA Ergonomics page, check them out here.
Your chair is your throne so shouldn’t it leave you feeling grand instead of tight and wound up? Here are few tips to turn that office chair into a spa for your hips and lower back;
- Always have your hips pushed back as far into your seat as possible. Use a small pillow if necessary.
- Adjust your seat height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips.
- Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle making sure your entire back is supported. Again, use small pillows if need be.
- Adjust or remove (if applicable) your armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed.
If possible, you’ll want a keyboard tray that can articulate into many positions and can hold both your keyboard and mouse and have adjustable height and tilt options.
- Have keyboard positioned in front of your body and close to you. Center the keyboard in front of you so that the area that you use most frequently is directly front and center.
- If possible, adjust the height of the holding tray so that your shoulders remain relaxed and your elbows are in a slightly opened position while maintaining straight wrists and hands.
- Depending on your position in your chair, your keyboard can have varying degrees of tilt. Those of you sitting forward or upright will want to have the keyboard tilting away from you or flat. For those who are more reclined, tilt the keyboard up so that it is slightly facing you.
- Use a palm support to maintain straight wrists and hands on your keyboard. Try not to use the support when actively typing but when only taking breaks and passively looking over your monitor. Avoid palm support that raises your wrists above keyboard level.
- Keep your mouse as close to your keyboard as possible. Use an mouse-bridge if available and place it over your 10-key pad to help keep it nearby.
- For those that do not have an adjustable tray, adjust your workstation height, your chair height or use a seat cushion to get into a comfortable position and use a footrest if your feet do not touch the ground.
Monitor, Telephone and Document trays
Keep yourself from getting into awkward postures by positioning your monitor in an optimal position.
- Center your monitor directly in front of you above your keyboard. Try to position your screen at least arm’s length away from you and about 2-3’’ above eye level.
- Reduce glare by doing the following; position screen at right angles to windows, adjust curtains, adjust vertical screen tilt to avoid glare from overhead lights.
- If possible adjust documents in front of you between your monitor and keyboard. If this isn’t possible, keep documents in a holder adjacent to your monitor.
- Place your telephone within arm’s reach. Use a telephone stand or arm if needed. Use a headset to keep from cradling handset on your shoulders.
Pauses and Breaks
No matter how perfect your workstation is set up, sitting and not moving for too long can inhibit blood circulation and lock up many parts of your body. Use these good habits to keep yourself feeling fresh and mobile.
- Try to take a quick minute break at least every 30 minutes. If possible, every hour get up and move around for 5 minutes. Always try to get away from your desk during lunch breaks.
- Avoid eye fatigue by refocusing periodically. Look away from your screen and focus on something in the distance.
- Maintain correct posture when working and move as much as possible.
Stay happy. Stay healthy.