Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Working from Home: Ergonomics for Keeping Your Back Healthy

GettyImages-974640830 (1)Many of us suddenly have been thrust into working from home. I am sitting on a folding chair, leaning over my keyboard, looking at my laptop screen that is sitting on a folding table. Needless to say, I am not in an ergonomically sound position. The Mayo Clinic has a great blog about how to set up your workspace perfectly. If you have a real home office with an adjustable chair and monitor, please follow their directions.

Make Your Home Office More Ergonomic

We do not live in an ideal world. After two days of working from home, my back is already sore. We need to do the obvious things to make our new “offices” more ergonomic:

  • Check to make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are at a comfortable 90 degrees.
  • Next, check your arms. Your elbows should be near your sides and at a 90-degree angle.
  • Your keyboard should be a comfortable distance away so that you are not reaching or scrunched.

These are the things you can control through office design.

Sit Correctly

Your behavior will be what saves or destroys your back moving forward. There are a few simple steps and activities you can do to keep your back healthy. The first thing you need to do is to sit up straight. That means sitting up and bringing your shoulder blades back and down. You are most likely not going to be able to sit with perfect posture all day long. When you find yourself slouching, just reset and sit tall and roll your shoulders back and down again. For some of us, it might be uncomfortable to sit with proper posture because we are habitual slouchers. That’s okay too; start by sitting with great posture at the top of every hour.

Strengthen Your Back

The next activities are meant to strengthen your back. The first of these is a plank. Proper form for a plank is where you are in looking at the floor with either your elbows or hands directly beneath your shoulders; your back should be mostly flat with your pelvis rolled like you are trying to put your tailbone into your belly button. Your legs should be straight and together with either your knees or toes touching the ground. You should plan on doing planks 2–3 times a day for at least 20 seconds.

The next activity is a Superman. This is where you lie on your stomach and lift your arms and legs off the ground a few inches. You will do this 10–20 times in a row for 1–2 sets. For best results, alternate with planks.

Stretch Your Back

The last thing you can to save your back is to stretch it. We are going to do 10 cat/cows and 10 bird dogs, both at lunchtime and when you finish up for the day. These stretches are easy to do, and you will be surprised at how much better your back will feel.

Top 3 Tips to Keep Your Back from Getting Sore While Working from Home

These tips will help you survive working from home with your back intact.

Sit Up Straight

  • Practice good posture.
  • Sit tall with your shoulder blades back and down.

Strengthen Your Back 2–3 Times a Day

  • Do 2–3 planks for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do 2 sets of 10-20 Supermans.

Stretch at Lunch and When You Finish for the Day

  • Do 10 cat/cow stretches
  • Do 10 bird dogs

Are you working from home?  How do you incorporate a balance of sitting and moving to avoid a stiff back?  Comment below.

Topics: pain relief stretching ergonomics posture exercises planks working from home

3 Tips to Relieve Joint Pain

This blog was written for NIFS by special guest writer Elizabeth Carrollton.

joint painJoint pain is a very common problem, and keeping fit is one of the best ways to find reliable relief. For many of us, limiting activity might seem to make sense when a joint is achy. However, inactivity can make matters worse. In fact, inactivity is a leading cause of joint pain, causing weakness in muscles and bones that can lead to injuries and joint disorders like osteoarthritis.

So if your joints are getting a bit sore and stiff by the end of the day, exercise can help relieve the pain and ward off more serious troubles. Of course, it's important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of injuries or joint problems before treating them with exercise.

1. How Exercise Helps Joint Pain

Keeping the muscles around injured joints strong is important in maintaining range of motion, joint function, and alignment, factors that can speed healing and recovery after injuries, as well as decreasing pain and stiffness. In joints affected by arthritis, regular exercise can increase joint support by improving the strength and tone of surrounding muscles, which can relieve daily pain and stiffness and slow the progress of this degenerative joint disorder. That's why physical therapy is typically used as part of the treatment plan for most joint injuries and chronic degenerative conditions.

2. Joint-Friendly Exercise

Moderate, weight-bearing exercise is the way to go when your goal is to relieve joint pain. Avoid high-impact exercise that rattles the joints in favor of more joint-friendly options, like walking, swimming, or bike riding. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are great choices as well, and have been shown in a number of studies to reduce joint pain and discomfort.

If you have been fairly sedentary, start slowly, working up to that optimal goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. If you have severe joint pain or degeneration, physical therapy might be a good idea to ensure that you aren't putting yourself at risk for further joint injury. Besides, working with an expert who is knowledgeable about joint care and function will likely offer more effective relief than exercising on your own.

3. Why Taking Care of Joint Pain Properly Is Essential

Ignoring joint pain can give small issues or injuries a chance to develop into serious, long-term joint problems. Serious joint problems lead to more than 690,000 knee-replacement surgeries every year in the United States and more than 450,000 hip-replacement procedures. Although these surgeries can be a good option for people who have been disabled by joint conditions or injury, they are major surgery and should be considered a treatment of last resort.

Recovery can be a long and challenging process after joint replacement and complications can be an issue, as anyone affected by the recent hip implant recalls can tell you. Faulty metal-on-metal hip implants, used in thousands of procedures, caused metallosis in some patients, which is a complication related to metallic implant debris. Metallosis can cause intense pain and swelling in the hip as metallic particles collect in the soft tissues, and can eventually lead to tissue death, bone loss, and implant loosening or failure, making more surgery necessary.

Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.

Topics: exercise corporate fitness arthritis pain relief physical therapy

Corporate Fitness: Foam Roller Therapy for Beginners

foam rollerYou may have seen foam rollers in your corporate fitness center and wondered what to do with them or how they benefit the body. Using a foam roller involves a technique called self-myofascial release. The idea is that when deep pressure is applied to areas that have been overworked or carry tightness, the soft tissue tension is released, allowing for better flexibility, improved performance, and decreased pain.

The good news is there aren’t many wrong ways to use the roller. You can use this tool on the back, quads, hamstrings, hips, glutes, IT band, and more. Typically, you will lie on the roller with the affected area pressing into the foam. Then, use your body weight to slowly roll back and forth on the roller.

You can compare the feeling of the foam roller to a deep-tissue massage. Some people will find the pressure to be therapeutic as it breaks down tension that they have been experiencing. For other people, the pressure can be too much, especially on tender areas, so it may be borderline painful. Start by rolling gently, perhaps supporting some of your body weight, so that it is not all bearing down on the roller.

Runners especially tend to benefit from foam roller therapy. When used on a regular basis, it can prevent tightness in the back, hips, and legs. If your corporate fitness center does not have a foam roller, consider investing in one of your own. They are inexpensive, ranging in price from $20 to $40 at your local sporting goods store. This article shows a foam roller routine that can be done once per day, leading to benefits in only two weeks.

Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness centers pain relief

Employee Wellness: Healthy Joints, Healthy Body

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

healthy jointsYour joints play an important role in all of life’s activities. They connect bone to bone, which allows your body to move during everything from sports and exercise to everyday functions such as playing with kids, lifting groceries, performing yard work, and even sitting at a desk.

However, factors such as age, injury, diet, and lifestyle can negatively impact the joints over time, leading to stiffness, pain, and possibly even the onset of arthritis. Keep your joints mobile with the following tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Shedding a few pounds can help take the pressure off of lower-body joints, including the knees, which seem to suffer the most from weight gain.
  • Mix up the aerobic exercise routine. Running and playing sports can help build bone density, but too much impact can hurt your joints. Mix in lower-impact exercises such as biking and swimming.
  • Pump iron. Strength training builds up the muscles that support joint health. Mix together upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises.
  • Keep it moving. Sitting for too long invites stiffness. Take stretching or walking breaks at the office, when watching your child’s sporting event, or when watching TV or reading at night. When you do find yourself at your desk, practice good posture.
  • Stretch. Stretch after exercising. You may also find yoga, Pilates, and t'ai chi soothing for sore joints.
  • Eat for joint health. Consume foods rich in calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, D, and K.
Topics: nutrition weight management arthritis pain relief joint health yoga injury stretching

Chronic Sitting Is Bad for Employee Health

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

bad posture, chronic sittingHaving a desk job likely means you spend more than half of your day—half of your whole day, not just your workday—NOT moving. We all know physical activity has a positive impact on health, but the ill-effects of inactivity are often overlooked.

Too Much Sitting Results in Heart Attacks, Pain

There is a direct, positive relationship between inactivity and disease, meaning the more inactive you are, the more likely you are to be affected by disease. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has revealed that people who sit most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks than their active counterparts.

If you spend the majority of your day sitting, chances are you have some muscular imbalances, weakness, and aches and pains. Muscular imbalances can lead to pain and injury, which in turn can lead to further inactivity. Poor posture while sitting can lead to tight chest and shoulder muscles, as well as tight, weakened hip flexors, low-back muscles, rear-shoulder muscles, front-neck muscles, glutes, and abdominal muscles.

It's Never Too Late to Start Being More Active

Think about your aches and pains. Do any of them line up with those listed above? If so, consider your activity level. Are you meeting the exercise recommendations set forth by the ACSM? If not, adding more movement to your day could remedy the problem.

If you're not meeting the ACSM’s recommendations for physical activity, there is some good news: It is never too late to start incorporating physical activity into your life. Get up and get moving today!

Topics: heart disease pain relief staying active