Lockdown has presented many challenges to the British public, not least of which is staying healthy and active - especially when contending with colder weather and darker days. Studies have shown that there has been a reduction in physical activity levels of nearly 40%.
As we start to return to normality and we head towards a more sociable future, we are still expected to work from home where possible, and this reduction in exercise is having the expected effects on our bodies - slowing down metabolism, worsening our moods, and negatively impacting sleep function.
World Health Day is celebrated each year on April 7th to raise awareness of health all over the globe, and as we enter the last stages of lockdown and wait for longer days to come with the clock change at the end of the month, physiotherapists from the MBST UK community share their tips and recommendations of how to keep our bodies healthy and active while we remain at home.
Tom Jenkins, physiotherapist for MBST UK observed “we have seen both a rise in injuries and a trend in the sorts of injuries we are seeing, related to people not moving about as much as they usually would.”
He says that with so many people working from home, they are treating an increasing number of lower back and shoulder complaints. This can be attributed to having a less-than-ideal workspace setup.
While the ideal is a dedicated workspace with the appropriate equipment, such as an ergonomic chair, there are other easy ways that these problems can be combated.
We should all be aware of our posture, and one easy way to check is to ask yourself “is my body aching?”, says Ann Clare, physiotherapist for MBST UK. “If so, then that is a pretty good indication that your body needs to move.”
“The human body isn’t meant to be static, and by remaining in one position for a long period of time, be that sitting or standing, we are going to cause stress on our joint and muscle structures. A traditional workday might see someone showering, before going to the office where they might move around to talk to other people, go to the loo, make tea, etc, before nipping to the shops on the way home. Without any of this almost unnoticeable activity taking place, we drastically limit our movement. As a result, we have seen a high incidence of lumbar musculature spasms in muscles such as Erector Spinae and Quadratus Lumborum as well as more stress on the structures we load when sitting such as the proximal hamstring tendons.”
Set a regular alarm to remind yourself to change position - every 10/15 minutes is about right when working from home. At this time, check your posture points - are your feet flat on the floor? Are your knees lower than your hips? Are your shoulders in line with your ears? These are all very easy checks we can carry out at home to ensure we are keeping our bodies healthy.
Other ways to keep your body healthy are by incorporating some simple exercises into your day - and it doesn’t have to be a big session. You can include exercise at every possible opportunity.
There are some great body movement and yoga sessions available on platforms such as Youtube. Giving yourself ten minutes of targeted movement every couple of hours will make a big difference.
And you can make it interesting! If you are home schooling or at home with the kids during Easter half term, join in on PE with the kids. Spend ten minutes dashing up and down your stairs - you can take the clean washing up at the same time!
Put on one of your favourite songs and dance around. If you have a phone call, pace during it. If you are listening in to a Clubhouse session, lie flat on the floor and slowly stretch out each muscle in turn.
Similar to when you are taking a long-haul flight (remember those?) you can also stretch your muscles at your desk. Shoulder shrugs, neck rotations, and shoulder extensions are easy to add in to your day and will help to relieve some of those aches and pains.
Just by making these few small changes, you will add enormous benefit to your mental and physical health, and repeating these actions on a daily basis will help it to become a habit.