Working from home: Quick Home Office Exercises to Prevent Musculoskeletal Problems

09th April 2021

We all know that sitting in an office chair all day isn’t good for us at the best of times; but without the daily commute, the walks around the office, and the lunchtime shop visits, it can be so easy to spend all day with minimal movement. Many people working from home have found it difficult to maintain the same level of exercise, with a lot of us having the habit of sitting or lying in some very unhealthy body positions.

You may be lucky enough to have a home office or desk to work at, or you may be one to sit on your bed with your laptop on your knees, or sat on the living room sofa; but without the correct ergonomic approach and regular movement, these can all can be very damaging to your bones, muscles and joints. This is the reason why so many people complain of lower and upper back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and joint pain, to name a few.

Prioritising your employees’ musculoskeletal health

It has become clear that as a nation of new homeworkers following the pandemic, we need to prioritise health a little more. This doesn’t just mean encouraging hygiene and social distancing to stop the spread of viruses, but thinking more about the effect of their new daily routine on musculoskeletal health too. Many individuals tend to forget or overlook the importance of caring for the structural aspect of our body, with many only realising after they have developed a painful or uncomfortable condition.

Musculoskeletal conditions are much more common than you may first think; approximately 1.71 billion people have some sort of MSK condition worldwide, with lower back pain being the most frequent (568 million people). Whilst some are genetically predisposed, the majority of cases could be prevented or minimised with the correct home DSE ergonomics and regular exercise.

As an employer, you have a lawful responsibility to protect your workers from the health risks associated with working at their desks, whether at home or at work, which involves display screen equipment (DSE). The best way to comply with this is through a DSE assessment, which includes motivating your employees to carry out regular motion, movement and exercise.

So, what are some quick and effective ergonomic exercises to prevent musculoskeletal disorders?

We have put together some exercises which individuals can do at their desk which can really help to reduce the risk of MSK disorders such as back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and arm ache etc. However, this should be in addition to your weekly exercise where you should be aiming for at least 30 minutes of cardio three times a week.

The chest stretch

Sit forward and away from the back of your chair. Stretch your arms out wide until you feel a stretch across your chest, making sure your thumbs are pointed at the ceiling and shoulders are back and down. Gently stretch like you are drawing your shoulder blades together.

Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times.

The chair twist

Sit slightly forward in your seat and keep your feet flat on the ground. Rotate your upper body and head to the left as far as you can. Cross your right arm across your body so it meets the right armrest, and rest your other hand (your left hand) on the back of the chair.

Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch sides and repeat.

The sit and stretch

Perch on the edge of your chair, with your left leg stretched out in front of you. Point your foot to the ceiling with your heel resting on the floor. Lean your upper body forward slightly from your hips whilst looking straight ahead. You should feel a stretch in your muscle along the back of your left leg.

Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times, then swap legs.

The wall press

Stand next to a wall will your feet shoulder-width apart, and stretch out your arms to the wall in front of you. Rest your palms about shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Take a couple of small steps back, engage your stomach muscles, and slowly bend your elbows to bring yourself closer to the wall until you are a few inches away, then push back up. Keep your back and neck straight whilst doing so, leading with your chest.

Carry out 3 sets of 10 wall presses.

The leg stretch

Stand in front of your desk and place your right hand on it for balance. Stand on your right leg, and raise your left leg backwards and upwards bending at the knee. Grab hold of your foot, and you should feel a stretch in your thigh.

Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times, then swap legs.

The perfect posture pose (continue this for the time working at your desk)

Sit your bottom right at the back of your chair, and rest against the back. Imagine there is a piece of string coming out of the top of your head to the ceiling. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and are not elevated or tense. Rest your forearms on the desk with your elbows at a 90º angle, and ensure both of your feet are resting on the floor, knees level with your hips. If this is not the case, you will need to adjust your seat, get a footrest or other support.

If you would like to learn more about ergonomics and DSE for home workers or for those returning to work, please get in touch with our team who can guide you through the process.

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