Is Your Office Job Damaging Your Health?
How many times have you uttered the words 'this job will be the death of me', well it could be!
The BBC reported earlier this month that up to 20million people in the U.K. are deemed inactive posing an increased risk of heart disease to those that are inactive, as well as costing the NHS £1.2 billion… yes, £1.2 BILLION a year.
What does inactive mean you ask? Well according to the above report - not completing ‘150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week and strength activities in at least two days a week’. This includes fast walking, riding a bike or team sports such as volleyball or basketball for your moderate intensity activity. For strength activity this can supposedly include heavy gardening and of course, resistance training.
Alternatively though, rather than 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity you can complete 75 minutes of ‘vigorous’ activity such as running, football, rugby or fast bike riding.
With a busy work, social and/or family life, work as an office worker can be tough to fit in this type of activity on a consistent basis.
With the statistics in mind, and a large portion of these inactive people being office workers, we wanted to analyse just how much your job could be affecting your health.
For those of you reading that are office workers, you probably know the struggle you're facing - long working hours, long commutes and long periods of time sat at a desk.
So, what are the true dangers of your current job and how can you change things?
The number one problem with office jobs is the lack of movement involved with them. You spend all day sat at a desk staring at a computer screen. From a purely physical point of view this is a bad thing - this lack of activity leads to muscles adapting to the seated position. Your hamstrings become tight and weak, your hip flexors become overused and tight and your spinal erectors (lower back muscles) also become overused and tight. Your glutes (bum muscles) and abs are usually disengaged and therefore weak.
All of this often leads to an anterior tilt in the hips when standing.
As you can see from the above image this hip position, your lower spine begins to arch and your centre of gravity shifts forward slightly. This new body position puts additional stress on your lower back and even your knees (if you've ever had lower back or knee pain this may be why!).
In addition to your hips becoming out of alignment, a continuous seated position, sat staring at a computer screen leads to a forward rounding of the shoulders and forward lean in the head. A rounding of the shoulders occurs due to a tightening of the pectorals and anterior delts. As well as this, due to your head leaning forward to look at your computer screen your traps take on the additional weight caused by your head being forward.
This position leads to a high amount of tension here and can lead to neck pain and headaches. This tension in the traps is exacerbated by the fact that the muscles that are meant to support the head deep neck flexors switch off due to under use. If you’re an office worker currently trying to put on size, you’ve probably noticed that your chest often lags behind. All of this is why!
So, what can you do to stop these postural changes?
The number one thing that is going to stop these postural changes is increasing your movement. This increase of movement needs to be spread evenly throughout the day, rather than sitting down for 10 hours and then going and getting your 10,000 steps.
Aim to get up and move for 5 minutes every 45-60 minutes, whether that is getting up to collect a print out, to go and refill your water bottle or to nip to the toilet - get up stretch your legs, your arms and stop that muscle shortening process.
Your seat and sitting position is another area you can focus on to halt this postural change. A lot of London workers have made the switch over from a traditional work chair to a Swiss ball. This change places more focus on using the core to stay sitting upright, rather than your erector spinea and will help to keep your core nice and strong (remember that people abs often become weak and disengaged, helping to tilt the hips forward). Sitting consciously, drawing your shoulders back and down and sitting with a nice neutral spine (rather than slumped or to the side) will help to keep your shoulder from rounding.
A great exercise to practice sitting at your desk is the exercise in this video: chin tuck - simply tuck your chin (attempting to create a double chin). This will help to switch on the muscles that are meant to be supporting the weight of your head, like the deep neck flexors.
So we've discussed the physical implications of being sat at your desk all day, but what deeper danger are you facing?
Worldwide a sedentary lifestyle is estimated to be responsible for around 9% of premature deaths a year (5 million people a year), broken down as:
6% of coronary heart disease cases
7% of type 2 diabetes cases
10% of breast cancer, and
10% of colon cancer cases
It was also reported in 2013 that inactivity is responsible for more annual deaths than smoking (www.lifespanfitness.com)
How does a sedentary lifestyle affect your lifespan? Well, through being sedentary your heart isn't used to heart work. At the end of the day your heart is a muscle and needs to be used just like the rest of them. Without enough stimulus your heart, and cardio vascular system as a whole, doesn't become efficient in pumping blood around the body.
As well as this, by definition if you're not sedentary, you must be active, and if you're active you're (probably) more likely to be a healthy weight, instead of being obese and encountering the possible health risks associated with this.
Now, you can probably deal with a little bit of back or neck pain every now and then as a result of your inactivity, but what about losing years off of your life, leaving behind family and friends?
Is it worth it?
We’d say absolutely not, but how do you start?
The first thing would be to assess your activity levels and honestly ask yourself are you anywhere near as active as guidelines state?
If the answer is no, then you should look to increase your activity today! Go for a brisk walk, hire a bike if you're in London, just start now - it's often the hardest part.
You should then look to incorporate activity into your everyday life - get that gym membership you've put off for a while (take advantage of free sessions and classes), join the company’s Wednesday running club and seek help from professionals in the fitness realm as well as your peers. People are always willing to help those that are committed to change!
Just don't put it off, your life literally depends on it.