3 Simple Healthy Habits for Back to Work & School
Agreeing with the majority is a rarity these days. However, I think where we can all agree is that bad postural habits and inactivity are a major crisis in our country. Thankfully, schools and offices are mostly back to in-person operation, but still more than any time in history we have engineered activity out of our daily life. We spend more time than ever before motionless in front of TV, computer, tablet, and handheld device screens. Students and workers aren’t even required to leave their homes anymore to accomplish their work. You can have food, groceries, and pretty much anything you want delivered right to your door. So, unless we start applying strategies to combat the endemic stressors of inactivity and bad posture, your body and mind will suffer the consequences.
What are the consequences?
There are many. Prolonged inactivity will literally shrink the neurons in your brain. Our nervous system has built-in mechanisms that EXPECT movement in order to thrive. Without routine movement you can suffer from mood disorders that range from attention deficit, to anxiety and depression. Your joints and muscles also have a requirement for movement and load. Without regular use your body will literally start to deteriorate and adapt to your surroundings. For some it looks like postural deformities from sitting or standing with poor posture. For others they develop pain syndromes in all areas of the body like neck, low back, hips, feet, knees etc. Your coordination and balance will suffer, flexibility and mobility will reduce, and your risk for chronic disease sky rockets (obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, etc.)
What can I do about it?
Here are 3 very easy things you can focus on that will help reduce the stressors from the requirements of work, study, school, and commuting:
- Invest in your work station where you spend the majority of your time. This is so critical but a mistake so many people make because they minimize the importance of maintaining healthy posture throughout the day. The ideal scenario is to set yourself up to be able to either sit, stand, or move around and remain productive. This change in posture throughout the day is of utmost importance so you avoid being motionless as much as possible and when you are stationary you can maintain a healthy posture. Watch this 30-minute webinar where I teach you how to set up a healthy home or office work station:
- Budget your time spent on your phone or tablet and while using make sure you keep the screen at eye level. Most phones have a function that can help you track your phone and social media use. I know I fall victim to being on social media too often and am always disgusted at myself when I learn how many hours I was on my phone at the end of the week. What has worked for me is allowing myself to be on only at certain times during the day after I have accomplished my tasks. Also, at night I put my phone away after 8pm so I can be with my family and connect at end of the day.
When using your phone or tablet the most important thing to do is to arrange your body to see the screen at eye level. To do this, when sitting you can bend forward at the hips, put your elbows on your knees and hold the device in front of your eyes so your spine stays neutral. See the picture below:
What you want to avoid doing, is holding your phone below eye level and bending your head down to see the screen. See the picture below:
The same principles can be applied when standing or laying down. Find a way to comfortably hold your device in front of your eyes while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Carry your backpack with the straps around both shoulders and tighten the straps so they are snug. Ideally if you have a chest or waist strap use this as well to evenly distribute the weight. Heaviest items should be placed closer to your back or the back of the bag. If you have a bag or purse with a shoulder strap this tends to be more stylish but less ideal if you plan to transport anything more than 5-10 lbs. If this is your bag of choice, place the strap around both shoulders instead of hanging it on one shoulder. This will help distribute the weight more evenly and lead to less neck and shoulder problems.
We are always happy to perform bag and backpack screenings for children AND adults at In8! Next time you are at the office bring your bag with you so your doctor can help you optimize your set up.
Don’t forget this month we are giving away a FREE month of care (up to $250) to one lucky patient who refers somebody to In8 Wellness Center in the month of September! Feel free to share this blog with somebody you think could benefit!
Love and light,
Dr. Ryan Hewitt