If you’re like us, chances are you spend most of your day sat at a desk – hunched over, legs crossed, with the only exercise being reaching for the biscuits come 3pm. This, of course can lead to back and postural problems and even nutritional issues (hence the instant sugar-fix needed to beat the afternoon slump).
But don’t fear, with these top tips from Brighton physiotherapist Antony Causton and registered nutritionist Jo Lewin, both based at Reach Physiotherapy in Seven Dials, we’ll all be feeling healthier and happier in next to no time.
1. Make sure that your screen is at the correct height
“The optimal height is at eye level or just below eye level,” lead physiotherapist, and founder of Reach Physiotherapy, Antony explains. “Having the screen too high may result in you looking upwards and this can cause compression of the neck, which can cause nerve compression, joint degeneration and muscle tension.”
2. Try to avoid using armrests
“These can cause compression of the nerves passing down through the arm. The same thing goes for mouse and keyboard supports,” he adds.
3. Keep your papers, phone and mouse in close proximity to your body
“Continuously having to reach for items on your desk can cause tension within the neural and muscular systems,” Antony explains. “Nerves and muscles under tension can lead to such problems as tendonitis and repetitive strain injuries, so keep your desk items close to prevent tension occurring.”
4. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed whilst working at your desk
You can do this by gently squeezing your shoulder blades together and holding for 10 seconds. “Repeat this 10 times every hour to improve your posture and prevent slouching,” the experienced physiotherapist advises. “This exercise also keeps tension out of your upper trapezius muscles, which can reduce the chances of problems such as tension headaches.”
5. Take regular breaks from sitting, ideally every 30-40 minutes
“When you sit there is approximately 250 lbs per square inch of pressure focused onto your lower back. This is double the amount of pressure compared to when you are standing. Continuous pressure onto the lower back can increase the chances of such problems as disc herniations, spinal arthritis and mechanical lower back pain. While you’re up, have a glass of water to stay hydrated.”
7. Avoid crossing your legs
“Crossing the legs can affect blood supply to the lower legs and have a negative effect on such things as varicose veins,” Antony says. “Crossing of the legs also puts a torsional force on the lower back. The lower back does not enjoy being twisted and this can also lead to lower back pain.”
7. Avoid eating ‘al-desko’
We all do it, but as nutritionist Jo explains it’s really not good for us. “Eating at your desk encourages mindless eating,” she explains. “When you’re preoccupied by emails, phone or a favourite blog and are not paying attention to the amount of food you’re eating, it’s easy to overeat. Often people don’t realise how much they are eating when their mind is on another task – for example, eating in front of the TV can lead to eating 30% more.”
8. Think about your food choices
“To avoid the energy slumps and keep your concentration throughout the afternoon, include a portion of wholegrain carbohydrate (such as brown rice, granary bread, beans or oatcakes). The carbohydrates will provide energy, the fibre will keep you feeling fuller for longer and your blood sugar levels will remain topped up!”
9. Include protein at lunch
“Protein (such as chicken, fish, eggs or beans) and carbohydrates combined slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream which means our energy is sustained well into the afternoon,” the nutritionist, who specialises in weight management, energy levels and digestive health advises. “If you do need a snack, avoid the cappuccino and chocolate bar. Instead try oatcakes with soft cheese, a piece of fruit with yoghurt, a small handful of nuts, or an open sandwich (one slice of bread).”
10. Chew thoroughly
“Chewing breaks down food and mixes it with saliva and other digestive enzymes which help the breakdown of food as it passes through the digestive system. Many of us eat on a rush and don’t chew enough which can lead to bloating, burping or indigestion. Try to take you time and savour the flavour of each mouthful.”
11. Lunch breaks are an important time to step away from your desk, get some fresh air and socialise
“The fresh air will help you feel more alert,” Jo says, “while a quick brisk walk will improve your circulation and help you breathe more deeply so you take in more oxygen – an essential ingredient for the brain. Plus if your job is stressing you out, stepping away can help lower blood pressure and stress levels which will enable you to have a clearer mind and better perspective when you get back to your desk.”
Find Reach Physiotherapy at: 101 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3JE.
Post written in collaboration with Reach Physiotherapy