How To Move Without Pain

Best Ways to Stay Active While Working from Home

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

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Working from home comes with many bonuses; better work life balance due to lack of commute time, relaxed dress code, flexibility of where (in your house) work is completed (desk, couch, kitchen table), and saving company money on tangibles like coffee bar, snacks, office supplies just to name a few.

Yet work from home has quite a few negatives too. For example, often at-home desk setups are not ergonomically designed for prolonged work. Also, the lack of commuting could actually take away activity and exercise that would otherwise be done. And depending on the type of job/employer, not being able to step away from work on the weekends can also be a negative. 

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Achieving work life balance (as best as possible) is important for more than just overall happiness. Too much sitting can have negative impacts on our overall health. Inactivity is linked to multiple health conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndromes, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels and many other conditions.

Whether you work from home or have a job that requires prolonged sitting, you may also suffer from difficulty concentrating, increased stress, reduced productivity, and even depression. 

Finding ways to add activity within your work day is key to reversing or reducing the effects of prolonged sitting and inactivity.

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7 Ways to Staying Active During your Work Days at Home


Take Breaks to Get Up and Walk Around

Every hour (if not more) stand up and walk away from your work. Do laps around the house, walk up and down the stairs a couple times, stand and stretch and reach overhead. 

If possible, go for a short walk around your neighborhood. The movement will reduce built up stress in your spine, knees, hips, and ankles and strengthen your muscles. Not to mention, walking helps to improve cardiovascular function and reduces stress which will improve focus, productivity and creativity. 

Setting a timer to alert you when your hour is up will help to remind you that you need to get up and move. There are many apps the can help us with this, such as the pomodoro app, Time Timer app or Timer+ app, all which are great options to alert you when you need to get up and move. 

Take the free Joint Health Assessment to learn the potential impact of your current activity limitations

Strength your Muscles

Stronger muscles are more resistant to repetitive use, postural stressors and pain from prolonged positions. Muscles maintain strength and gain strength with movement, even normal functional movements are enough to help at least maintain strength. 

Strengthening the scapular stabilizers and upper back muscles will provide your shoulders and neck with a stronger foundation, leading to improved neck and shoulder positions.  Strengthening the core (abdominal and lumbar musculature) will provide your body with improved tolerance for upright positions such as sitting and standing.  Additionally, a stronger core enables you to tolerate longer posture in different positions before fatigue and pain begin.

Stretch Out Your Tight Muscles

Abdominals, hip flexors, hamstrings and calf muscles all can tighten from prolonged sitting, as do muscles in the anterior (front) area of your neck and pectoral muscles. If muscles don’t stretch, they shorten – this is called adaptive shortening. Adaptively shortened muscles can reduce your ability to perform functional movements, like fully standing up straight, looking up at the ceiling all the way. For example, if the hip flexors (muscles in the front of your hips) are shortened and have reduced flexibility, when you stand they may prevent you from standing completely straight, adding stress/strain to the lumbar spine which  can lead to back pain. 

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Schedule it Into Your Day

Meetings, lunch, deadlines are scheduled. Schedules provide structure and accountability. Schedule 5 minutes to stand up, stretch and relieve the tension building between the shoulder blades or low back. Making the activities a task to be completed on your daily work calendar will help with overall continuity and your compliance with completing the tasks (Activity and stretches)

Sneak in Extra Activity

Use every opportunity that you can to get up and get away from your desk. Take extra laps around the house after using the bathroom to get in extra steps. Walk while on conference calls or listening to meeting minutes. 

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Don’t Eat at Your Desk

Get away from your desk to eat lunch. Get up, stretch and move during your lunches. The activity of getting up and moving around to make lunch, causes you to change position, move your body, engage muscles that have been stagnant during sitting. 

Develop An Home Office Activity Plan

Making time to be active during our work days can be difficult when we’re focused on work tasks, deadlines and productivity. Often we try to get one more thing done before we take a break, and then suddenly we are three hours into the task. Not realizing we just sat for hours without changing the position of our spines or legs.

Take the free Joint Health Assessment to learn the potential impact of your current activity limitations​

One of the best solutions is to create a home office activity plan that fits into your work day. The plan should include designated breaks, walking, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

Take Breaks – Get up, move around at least every 1 hour throughout the day.

Walking – Take a 5 minute walk to increase your heart rate, use your muscles during (your newly scheduled) morning breaks, lunchtime, and when your work day is over. 

Stretching – Complete stretches for all muscle groups that feel stiff and tight of your neck, low back, hips, knees and ankles. 

Strengthening – Complete a few exercises that work multiple joints and muscle groups to feel stronger and use your muscles.    Keep small dumbells at your desk that will let you do upper body exercises while you’re listening in on meetings.

Sneak It In – Use opportunities when you are listening to walk laps in front of your desk or hallway. Do extra laps walking from the bathroom or kitchen. 

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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