National Fitness Day

07.05.21 07:55 PM By James

It’s National Fitness Day. This has me thinking about how much our work situations have changed over the past year. While many have applauded the shift of having their office be just a room over from where they sleep, there are office perks many of us don’t have in our homes. Sure, it’s great to be able to sleep until the last minute, roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and get to work without all of the hassle of getting ready and commuting. At the same time, how many of us actually have a decent home office setup? I have several friends who have their “office” set up at their couch or kitchen table. Not everyone can afford a $1,600 Herman Miller chair with its multiple points of lumbar support and breathable fabric. Many of us are focusing on the comfort of working from home while ignoring what it is doing to our bodies. Be honest with yourself - are you paying attention to the angle of your arms and wrists while you’re bundled up on your couch, returning your daily emails? Fret not - this isn’t a call to get back into an office environment. Instead, let’s go over some ways that we can alleviate any aches and pains or, hopefully, prevent them in the first place.

Let’s talk posture

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are some simple ways to improve your posture. It may be great to be sitting on your couch, all wrapped up like a burrito, but it isn’t doing anything good for all of the muscles in your back. The key is to identify the issues with your posture as soon as possible to prevent any long-term aches and pains. 

What are you sitting on?

Listen, not everyone can afford a nice office chair or even afford an office chair in general. For the past decade, my “office chair” has been a rocking chair that I have converted to be more efficient for my lazy needs without thoughts to ergonomics. Rather than buying a chair, I have mounted boards on the arm to use as a mousepad zone and my keyboard is velcroed to a padded lap desk. Whether you use a nice office chair or a cobbled together rocking chair like I do, at the end of the day, we need to still be aware of how we are sitting while working from home. Sinking back into a comfortable couch isn’t doing any good for your back - no matter how nice it feels at the time. Regardless if your home work space is a super comfortable couch or simply standing at your kitchen counter, Jon Cinkay, a physical therapist and coordinator for body mechanics at the Hospital for Special Surgery has an easy-to-read illustration of some of the ways that you can improve your posture. 

The next time you set up for work, try one of these tricks to improve your posture: While sitting on the couch, put a cushion or a pillow behind your back to support your spine. Or get yourself an anti-fatigue mat for standing at your counter. There are plenty of small adjustments that we can make that will greatly reduce our risk of injury - injuries that could become long-term problems if not addressed in a timely manner. It turns out that my goofy home setup I use is better for me than attempting to use a traditional setup with my current chair. Here I was, just assuming that I was lazy. Turns out, I was unknowingly doing things the proper way all along.

So, we have our work setup optimized to the best of our ability. Where do we go next?

Let’s get physical!

According to Harvard Health Publishing, we should only sit for an hour before getting up and moving. “On average, we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting down: working at a computer, watching television, traveling in a car, or doing other sedentary things such as reading or chatting with friends. But long stretches of uninterrupted sitting have a range of undesirable effects that may harm your heart,” says Dr. Beth Frates, who directs wellness programming for the Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at the Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. This quote lays out the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle that can develop when we work from home. Take a moment and think of all the different times throughout the day that you’re just sitting. Work? Watching TV? Catching up with friends? They add up. With just a few small adjustments to our daily schedule, we can try to combat the damage we are doing to our bodies.

Take a break

Get up and walk. It really is that simple. Take a moment to get out of your chair and go for a short walk. It doesn’t have to be a long walk by any means. Here at the Millennial Assistants home base, we like to take a break about every hour to get up and walk around a bit. It can be as small as walking to get a coffee refill and some fresh air, or a walk around the block. It may not seem like a lot, but it does wonders when it comes to keeping us motivated and on task. Sure, we sometimes go a bit longer without breaks if we are really invested on a project, but in general, we schedule our days in a way that allows mini fresh air breaks. There are several ways to plan your breaks. The important thing is to find one that works for you and/or your team. It will increase your ability to fight off both mental and physical fatigue. 

Reach for the sky

Sometimes we don’t have the option to go for a walk. That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. There are plenty of stretches a person can do from wherever they are sitting. Some simple twists and turns can go a long way to help avoid the pain of the day. Think about forming a basic stretch routine that you can do throughout the day to keep yourself limber and to prevent some of the tightening of muscles that comes from being in a non-optimal position for too long. At my home office setup, I have some light dumbbells and resistance bands within reach. Throughout the day, I’ll take a moment to stretch and work out some muscles. Sometimes it is as simple as doing a stretch or two, followed up with a basic lifting motion. A few squats mixed in with some bicep curls or some overhead tricep extensions feel great after sitting for too long. Mix it up and find something that works for you. A simple bodyweight routine will do wonders.

Remember, it’s not just about taking a break every so often. The quality of the break is just as important. Get up and go for a walk. Go to a different room and take a moment to meditate or relax. Maybe just sit outside and daydream for a bit. Mix it up throughout the day. We are looking for quality over quantity here. 

Go see a mechanic for a check up

Oftentimes, we spend so much time focusing on the things around us that we forget about taking care of ourselves. Our bodies are wonderful machines that require constant maintenance and upkeep to maintain the best condition possible. Take a moment and think about the last time you really did something to take care of yourself. I think it would be safe to say that most of us have been lacking when it comes to self-care. It is incredibly easy to overlook this facet of our life when we are in a constant state of forward motion. I can tell you as a licensed massage therapist that I can tell that a client has neglected themselves within the first few minutes of the massage. I can have a client on my table and almost immediately know that they have their computer monitor offset at an angle that requires them to twist their body for work. I got into massage therapy because I wanted to help people understand the many minuscule things that we do throughout the day that cause our bodies stress. In the US, we tend to view massage therapy as a luxury that is only for special occasions. In reality, it is a very affordable expense that we all could benefit from. Some places will recommend several massage therapy sessions a month but, for the average person, once or twice a month will show incredible results. Like many professions, massage therapists specialize in different forms of massage. There are many types of massage modalities and often we can direct you towards a therapist that would be more beneficial to your needs if we aren’t the right fit. For some, massage might not be the answer. There are alternatives such as chiropractors, yoga, or even guided meditation. Stress, anxiety, or even aches and pains, you should take the time to research what opportunities you have at your disposal.

It’s National Fitness Day. I implore you to take stock of your busy schedule and see what you can do to make your life just a little bit better by being more aware of the strain you put on yourself. We only have so many miles of use on our bodies, and I want you all to have the highest quality of life you possibly can.

James Legault
Operations Manager, Millennial Assistants
​Licensed Massage Therapist