We are hunched over our laptops at the kitchen table as we work from home. We are spending lots of time binge-watching TV or endlessly scrolling through our phones while lying on our sofas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our bodies have a message for us: HELP!
"We are meant to move," said Brian McClenahan, a WellSpan Health physical therapist in Lancaster County. "Make sure you are regularly stretching and moving, rather than sitting or lying for long periods of time."
Movement stimulates blood flow in the muscles and helps to lubricate your joints.
"If you sit for hours without moving, your joints will stiffen and your muscles will tighten," said Jamie Steier, a WellSpan physical therapist in Franklin County. "Even five minutes of movement can make a big difference."
This unusual time is actually a great time to start some new habits, McClenahan noted. Studies show it takes a little longer than two months – 66 days to be exact – for a new behavior to become a habit. If you use this time to improve your posture and move at regular intervals, you might just find you are continuing to do that when you return to your regular office routines.
Here are some tips from McClenahan and Steier for working and staying at home during the pandemic:
- Think about doing the opposite. When you are in the sitting position, working at a laptop, your head is forward and looking down, your arms are bent, your back is rounded, your hips are flexed and your knees are bent. Move all those joints and limbs, in the opposite directions if possible, several times a day, to reduce stress and combat the strain of sitting still. Move your head back, look up, straighten your elbows, raise your shoulders, flex your legs and hips.
- Make sure your work station is set up the correct way:
- Sit in a supportive chair, with your back against the lower part of the backrest.
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90-degee angle.
- Your elbows also should be at a 90-degree angle. Avoid resting your forearms on the edge of your work station.
- The top of your monitor should be at forehead height.
- Incorporate movement into your day. Take a break from your laptop by standing up and walking around at regular intervals. Walk while you talk on the phone.
- Try a simple exercise like sitting down and standing up from a chair 10 times in a row, without using your hands. Do this several times a day.
- Avoid sitting or lying on soft furniture for long periods of time. Get up and move at regular intervals.
- Walk for at least 30 minutes a day. You can split this up into segments if you want. Take large strides, to open up your hips. Walk at least five days a week.