As a deskbound athlete, the hours and hours sitting at a desk often undoes any gains we make during our training. Sitting for prolonged periods of time forces your body into compromised functions and causes movement problems that will cause roadblocks in your athletic progress. But all hope is not lost!
As a deskbound athlete, there are minor things you can do during your workday that will help further, rather than hinder, your training. After all, human bodies are engineered for movement and keeping fit. Committing to frequent activity both at work and outside of work can balance the lack of motion required in prevalent computer work.
Called “the new smoking,” the deskbound life has many documented health hazards. Sitting all day without an office workout takes a toll on both your physical and mental health. Researchers have documented the following issues associated with deskbound life:
When sedentary for a long time, circulation slows. Fluid accumulates in the legs, often causing uncomfortable, if not painful, swelling. Serious disorders, like deep vein thrombosis and blood clots, can develop.
Many new clients ask us: “The issue is I sit too much; how can motion be the problem?”
Even deskbound athletes may be prone to “repetitive motion injuries,” most often of the hands, arm, and neck. When you spend too many hours in the same position, certain muscles can become overworked and strained.
There’s also the possibility that you frequently overstretch to reach for something at work. Repeated motions to grab paper from a printer at the end of your desk without getting up can even result in a repetitive injury. You may be typing furiously all day, exhausting the nerves in your hands. At best, these conditions result in pain and muscle fatigue. At their worst, repetitive motion injuries can lead to life-long issues like carpal tunnel syndrome or worsening vision.
As blood slows its movement throughout the body, organs begin to operate less efficiently. Research has established that lack of regular movement can contribute to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, herniated discs, and long-lasting musculoskeletal disorders. They’ve even found potential for higher risk of certain types of cancer, including colon, breast, and endometrial cancer, all due to increased insulin release.
Sitting affects more than your physical health. When your work conditions become physically painful, your brain suffers, too. Blood flow is lower when you sit and blood pressure is higher, impacting the movement of nutrients (namely oxygen) to the brain.
This lack of blood flow may reduce your concentration and attention, leading to frustration, anxiety, and depression. The lack of visual stimulation, more extended depth of field, or changing surroundings strains the eyes. These issues can result in tension headaches and neck strain, which can make it harder to focus. Productivity can decline, leading to job issues and a declining desire to work.
Those who engage in hard workouts and athletic endeavors know their muscles become fatigued and sore. These muscles require extra blood flow to ensure nutrient replenishment. They don’t get that flow when the athlete sits at a desk the next day. A day of sitting after a workout drops the progress made during exercise and slows the healing process necessary for recovery.
Sitting too much leads to poor posture, which causes your body to place a significant amount of stress on your spine and lower back, causing neck and back pain.
Sitting causes tight muscles and a loss of range of motion. When sitting, our glutes become weak and they lose their primary role of hip stabilization and extension. In fact, by remaining seated for most of the day, your hip flexors are rarely extended and they become short and tight, thus limiting your range of motion.
If you’re injured in a work environment due to overly sedentary work, your employer may be at fault. Take note of workplace incidents as they occur and get any documentation you can. At this point, if you’re just feeling the stress of sitting all day, you can make some good changes to improve your health and fitness.
Ergonomics is the place to start. One of the easiest ways to prevent problems associated with sitting is to make sure you’re sitting correctly. This may involve obtaining an ergonomic chair and desk, adjusting the height and distance of your computer monitor, or even opting for sitting alternatives, like standing desks or medicine balls as chairs. If you find looking down at your laptop computer screen a problem, get a laptop stand and detached mouse and keyboard.
While you’re sitting, give your spine and neck the most neutral position to reduce physical stress. Keep both feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart. Avoid crossing your knees or ankles, and try to keep your arms parallel to the floor. You shouldn’t have to strain or stretch to reach your keyboard or see your screen either; ideally, keep it between 15–30 inches away from your eyes.
Make it a point to move around throughout the day, and try to stand at least twice every hour. Engage in a small office workout, take a moment to stretch, walk around the office, or hit the water cooler to fill up your bottle. If you’re capable, taking a walk outside is even better. Similarly, if the opportunity arises to walk to lunch instead of driving, take it! Moving around gives your muscles a change of pace and a chance to de-stress. Even better, it offers mental stimulation and a break from screen time on your eyes.
The number one way to combat the effects of sitting is to keep up your active lifestyle outside of work. A sedentary job and keeping fit don’t cancel each other out. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking every day can make a huge difference in your overall health.
Combating sedentary working conditions takes some effort, but we’re here to support you. At Stretch Affect, we work closely with many athletes to create customized plans for effective exercise, including stretching for office workers to carry out through the day.
Schedule a consultation today to find your weak spots. Together, we’ll find how sitting at a desk has been hurting your body. When you start the custom routine we help you develop, you’ll feel more energized and powerful within weeks.
Contact us today at (619) 389-3718 to schedule your first Stretch Affect session. We look forward to meeting you!
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