Imagine working closely together with a colleague who complains all the time: when you have been using the mouse for five minutes he will start bitching, and when you’ve been sitting for half an hour he starts yelling at you. This is the case for many people every day –only the colleague is closer than you think –it’s your own body.
If you have office work, chances are that you regularly experience one or more of the following:
- Upper back and neck pain
- Lower back pain
- “Mouse arm??
- General stiffness and aching
What’s this? You love your job so much. You jump out of bed in the morning shouting “Yes! I’m going to work today!?? And your body starts giving you all sorts of complaints. Why? Well, let’s take a look at what kind of work your body was originally designed to do.
10.000 years ago, before the beginnings of any kind of civilization and through ages of natural selection, the human body (and mind) had become highly specialized in the art of hunting and gathering. Life was all about finding –and killing- food, and avoiding becoming food. If food became scarce, then you moved to find it elsewhere, living a nomadic lifestyle. Everyday, all day, nothing could be obtained without movement. Physical activity was essential. If you couldn’t move –you died.
Nowadays most of us can easily live our lives with a minimum of physical activity, thanks to cars, elevators, e-mails, pizza delivery and the like. So why all these physical complaints and ailments? Your body should be happy to get off the hook, shouldn’t it? Well, it isn’t, and here’s why: Your body likes to move, and what’s more, it needs to! It is its nature, you might say. Strapping your body behind a desk with minimum movement for 8-10 hours a day is going against nature, on the physical level. And going against nature makes you… well, unhappy. Just like your mind grows dull without intellectual stimulation, your emotions wither away without love and companionship – so your body will start aching and complaining when you don’t exercise it.
So, what to do, to make our closest colleague happy? Start moving! Here are some suggestions:
1: Remember: moving is fun!
If you have forgotten, then it is time to rediscover the joy of physical activity. Play more. Organize office chair races, or give lunch break dance lessons.
If you cultivate a relaxed and easy-going attitude, then you are more likely to avoid stress. Without stress you will be less tense, and you are able to feel your bodily needs; also the need to move.
3: Use any excuse to get out of the chair.
Go see people instead of calling or e-mailing. Deliberately move your most used files to the opposite wall in the office.
4: Move for no reason.
For instance, decide to do phone calls balancing on one leg.
5: Buy furniture that invites you to move about.
Like elevating desks and gym-balls to sit on. Though apparently bean-bag chairs can go horribly wrong in the workplace:
6: At least twice a week, do a proper work-out.
Doesn’t matter what kind as long as you are sweating like a pig and having lots of fun. If you haven’t found your fun work-out yet, keep looking. It’s out there!
The pay-off? Reducing any physical pains will of course improve your productivity and concentration. Also, more movement increases your physical energy, which in turn makes you more motivated and more positive.
This post was written by physiotherapist Nicolas Kjerulf (yes, that’s my brother!)
Nicolas promotes health in companies in and around Copenhagen, Denmark. You can see his website here (in Danish) and you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.