You may not like my first point, but read on please (because I tell you to eat cake in the last point)...
I don't work in an office. Not much of my day is spent sitting down.
But I do work with ladies who do. And one of the biggest 'complaints' I hear and see from these ladies is that they experience lower back pain in one way or another.
The good news is, there are some small changes that you can make to your work day that will help to make each day a little healthier.
1. Ditch the heels!
I cannot begin to tell you just how bad wearing heels on a daily basis is for your body! Firstly, the muscles of the lower leg spend the day in a contraction. Muscles that spend all day in a contraction will adapt eventually, becoming unnaturally short. This puts extra load onto the Achilles and plantar fascia tendons, which can lead to a raft of problems (1). I've seen first hand the horrible effects of plantar fasciatis - ye-ouch! The 'heel-up/toe-down' position of the foot also places the hips into an anterior (front) tilt - think of your pelvis and hips as a bucket of water. Anterior tilt would be pouring the water out of the front of your bucket. This anterior pelvic tilt puts the lumbar spine (lower back) into lordosis (an unnatural curve - looks like your bum is poking out!) Just as the heels shorten your calf muscles, by causing lumbar lordosis, the muscles of your lower back are also shortened (2). No wonder I hear so much about lower backs hurting! This lordosis will also lengthen the lower abdominal muscles, causing them to weaken. Which brings me to my next point...
2. Walk around AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
This one really goes without saying. Be as active as possible during your day (in your flat shoes, of course!) Here are some hints and tips that I hope you'll find useful:
- Talk to your colleagues face-face rather than email or phone if possible;
- Print to a printer further away;
- Use the toilets further away;
- DO NOT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK!
- In fact, walk outside in the fresh air for your lunch break;
- Suggest a walking meeting if appropriate;
- Set an alarm for every 20 minutes. Use that as a reminder to stand up, stretch, walk up and down the corridor. Whatev's. Just get moving!
3. Make your work space healthier!
One of the best things to happen this century is the 'invention' of the sit-down/stand-up desk. You all know the saying now, 'Sitting is the New Smoking' (3). It doesn't take much to find good research about how our increased inactivity is causing a raft of health problems - metabolic syndrome disorders (such as diabetes), obesity, postural dysfunction (the lower back issues I spoke about earlier) and an increase in bad cholesterol. I'm not about to spruike products from any of the varying-height desk manufacturers, but you know, you can always ask your boss to upgrade your desk for you!
4. BYO Lunch.
Yes, your work canteen may have amazing salads and healthy options. That's great! But I can almost guarantee it's not cheap... Don't need to tell you the benefits of saving money. That said, even if the lunch options are amazing, nutrient dense meals, what are the portion sizes like? Click here if you're not sure what your portion sizes should be (Nutrition Australia). Really, bringing your own healthy lunch is the best bet! Included in your healthy lunch box should be some great snacks to tide you over from breakfast to lunch, and again from lunch to dinner. Again, the Nutrition Australia website has some great information and resources for you to use. Which brings me to my last point...
5. Skip the chocolate, bickies, lollies, chips in the tea room!
Ugh! Why does that stuff even need to be there? Surely, in this day and age, we know that this 'food' is not for every day. But, if you find yourself in the situation where these treats are on offer, you can use a few different strategies to help you avoid them. First and foremost, stay hydrated with water. This will help keep you feeling well and less likely to want a snack to boost your energy levels. Secondly, keep your draw stocked with healthy, pre-proportioned snacks. 30g raw nuts, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, 30g dried fruit or 30g dried legumes are all far better options than reaching for the factory processed biscuits or chocolate. Thirdly, on the odd occasion that there is cake for someone's birthday, have a (small) slice! OMG, I hear you say!! Why is she saying that?! Well, hopefully it's not someones birthday every day of the week. Hopefully, it's only like once a fortnight. One small slice of cake, enjoyed as part of a celebration, is not a problem. In fact, it is something to look forward to! As long as the other 9 days in that working fortnight are cake-free, enjoy the cake on day 10!