As a physical therapist, we didn't have much time working from home. Of course, we offer telemedicine to those who can benefit from it to reduce in-office time, but all in all our job is best done in person. So I, myself, don't necessarily encounter a lot of the same struggles that many of you working from home have. But talking to my wife and my clients, I started to notice this common theme of video meetings that are quite literally back to back to back.
If you think about it, the schedule totally makes sense. When you're at work, you have to walk to different offices or maybe even drive to meet with a colleague or client. You don't have little chat breaks in the hallway on your way to the bathroom or copier. So I'm sure doing video meetings one right after the other is crazy efficient, but also really hard on your body and tiresome.
Ideally, you're not sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. So the best thing to do is set a timer to get up and move every 30-minute block. I know, I know it's easier said than done. Especially as someone who doesn't have to sit down at all throughout the day.
Sitting for extended periods of time without even having a quick bathroom break to walk around can have a serious impact on your body. Problems like forward slumping posture is now developing in so many of my patients. Another common complaint is stiffness (which makes sense if you've been sitting in the same position six straight hours on Zoom calls).
Gravity is pulling down on your body at 9.81m/s^2 which means forces are constantly trying to get you to slump. So we have to have a realistic plan to combat this at your workstation!
Here are my three quick tips for keeping your body "active" at your workstation!
My first insight is probably the hardest thing I will ask of you in this whole blog. Try to end your Zoom meeting just 5 minutes before your next one. Not only does this then give you plenty of time to do these next exercises, but it will also ensure that you're giving your eyes a break. Staring at a screen all day can be just as detrimental as sitting. So try to give your eyes some decompression time between meetings as well! Now onto the exercises:
1. Stand and march in place for about 30 seconds. Try to get your knees to the same level as your belly button. If you want to be fancy and get real crazy with it, you can hold a knee up in a single leg balance position for 3-5 seconds. You are training the stabilizing muscles in your hips and legs which in turn help support your back. Your proprioceptors and receptors for movement and awareness will be stimulated and woken up.
Also, be sure to straighten out your arms after having them bent for typing. If you straighten your arm and feel a burn, it's because your body was already creating crosslinks (the precursors to scar tissue and adhesions) which are now breaking apart. So make sure you move those arms around too!
2. Your postural muscles in your upper back hold your shoulder blades back and keep you from hunching over. Those rhomboids keep you from that forward shoulder life that is seemingly inevitable the longer you work at a computer.
This thoracic extension stabilization is just the ticket. And in order to do this exercise properly, your legs and core need to be involved. It looks kind of like the chair pose in yoga. So try to do it on your chair or having your butt hover over your chair for 45 seconds to a minute.
3. Last but not least, let's work on the shoulder girdle. If you've successfully saved yourself 5 minutes between call and you did the above exercises, you should still have about a minute and a half to spare. You can spend 30-45 seconds doing this exercise to wake up your rotator cuffs and establish the new position for the shoulder blade that you just created doing thoracic extension.
Now remember to check with your healthcare professional if there is pain doing these activities. The above exercises are safe for most folks but different people have different conditions that might require individualized attention.
Hopefully now you are feeling refreshed and you have some blood circulating and ready for your next call at :00 or :30.
Happy Zooming and remember, we heal smarter, not harder!
Dr. Justin C. Lin