OrthPT01-sm.jpgPictured above: Renee Hall (left), occupational therapist and clinical supervisor of outpatient therapy at USA; and USA Physical Therapist Joan S. Friedlander

Individuals who work a­­t a desk every day are prone to muscle fatigue from overexertion, poor posture, and repetitive stress injuries.

“Our bodies aren't designed to be in one position for hours at a time,” said Renee Hall, occupational therapist and clinical supervisor of outpatient therapy at the University of South Alabama Orthopaedic Rehab Center. “Sitting also slows down your metabolism and can increase your chance of obesity, as well as lead to other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.”

With this in mind, for those who work at a desk there are several habits you can develop to help avoid these issues and feel better at the end of each work day.

Hall recommends that you give your muscles a 20-second to two-minute break throughout the workday to help avoid repetitive stress injuries.

“Stop what you’re doing and change tasks so your muscles can rest, or do some stretching exercises for your arms and your back,” she said. “I recommend to my patients that every two hours they stand up from their chair and stretch the lower back and upper body. In addition, if you work at a computer you should get up from your chair and change your task every 30 minutes.” You should also stretch your neck, shoulder, hands, forearms, torso and lower extremities spontaneously throughout the day.

USA Physical Therapist Joan S. Friedlander said there are several stretches that are easy to do at your desk or in your cubicle:

  • Standing: neck and back extension; hold 1 sec x 5-10 repetitions
  • Forearm/wrist stretches in sitting or standing position; hold 5 seconds x 10 reps
  • Corner stretches or “W” stretch if no corner; hold 5 seconds x 10 reps
  • Knee extension with ankle rolls; sitting in chair, extend each knee and roll ankles in both directions. This stretches hamstrings and strengthens quad muscles

For a demonstration of these stretches, watch the video below.

USA PT Desk Exercises from USA Health System on Vimeo.

In addition, Friedlander recommends doing the following muscle-strengthening/aerobic exercises throughout the work day:

  • Stationary jogging x 1 minute
  • Lunges (forward and side) x 10 reps each leg
  • Partial squats or wall slides x 10 reps
  • Desk push-ups x 10
  • Keep a small dumbbell (3-5 lbs) by your desk for upper body exercises, such as biceps/triceps and shoulder
  • Brace/contract lower abs while maintaining good sitting/standing posture. 

Other tips for staying energized during the work day include the following:

  • Set a timer (on your phone, computer or watch) or have a Post-it note that reminds you to get up and move
  • Perfect your posture! If you are at a computer during the day, make sure you follow ergonomic guidelines for your workstation  
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator
  • Give your eyes a break every 30 minutes by scanning other objects and closing your eyes for several seconds
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid junk food (cookies, chips, etc), and keep healthy snacks at your desk
  • Walk instead of emailing or calling a co-worker
  • Have ‘walking meetings’ where you are walking around your office with another co-worker versus meeting at a desk

To make an appointment at the USA Orthopaedic Rehab Center, call (251) 665-8201.

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