Working from home is a trend that’s been growing much faster in these past few months. While the option has been around long enough for some to be considered veterans or old pros, for many, the #wfhlife is a whole new ballgame. Regardless of how long you’ve been doing it, you’ve likely had a taste of both the conveniences and challenges of remote work. Some of us might choose to rock up after that extra hour of sleep that would otherwise be spent commuting (and let’s be honest, just having that option is pretty glorious). But what about the movement that we would get on a typical workday? Chances are, we aren’t taking as many steps compared to when we were going into the office. So what do we do about this? How do you and your members avoid sedentariness and continue to move?
The benefits of movement to your health
While standing desks and other ergonomic solutions can provide increased comfort during the day, they still don’t address our bodies’ need for frequent movement throughout the day. What’s worse, lack of physical activity and sitting all day in the same position can actually injure you over time and cause chronic back or joint pain. A few of our favorite sayings here at Hinge Health are “movement is medicine” and “your next position is your best position.” What we mean is, it’s best to keep moving! The body is designed to shift positions throughout the day. Research shows frequent movement is essential for both general health and pain management. In the “Blue Zones” studies on longevity hotspots around the world, one of the unanimous factors across these hotspots was daily movement by their inhabitants.
Staying active boosts well-being and productivity by offering the following benefits:
- Relieves stress - Movement is a known stress-reliever by stimulating the body to create “feel-good” neurochemicals.
- Reduces pain - Frequent movement helps keep muscles active and calms the body’s pain system, retraining it to learn that movement is safe, according to research published in the Journal of Chiropractic Education.
- Improves cognition - The increased blood flow helps nourish all tissues of the body, including the brain.
- Reduces eye strain - Taking a quick break to move takes your eyes off the screen and gets you blinking (yes, we can unconsciously forget to blink!)
Even with these benefits in mind, you and your members still might be asking, how can we carve out time to get up and stretch in the middle of a busy workday?
Enter “Movement snacks”
Just 30 seconds of exercising at an elevated heart rate can pave new neural pathways in the brain, according to research published in the Journal of Chiropractic Education. Simple exercises like squats or push-ups sprinkled throughout the day will do the trick. The key is frequency, ideally moving or changing positions every 30-60 minutes. Even a little is better than nothing!
Of course, when we’re absorbed in our work, it can be hard to remember to change positions. This is where “movement snacks” come in, and below, we’ll break down how to use different cues to help you and your members remember to keep “snacking” throughout your day. In the end, you’ll have what you need to create your own work-from-home movement “meal plan” to increase your productivity without interrupting your flow.
Your work-from-home movement meal plan: 5 steps
1. Reviving routines. During a typical workday, we would usually find ourselves commuting and perhaps walking somewhere during our lunch break. Though we’re probably not missing our commutes too much, who's to say that we can’t keep some of the benefits of these routines, like separating the day, changing scenery, and getting fresh air? Try setting up your workday with a quick morning jog, breaking it up with a lunchtime stretch break outside, or winding down and transitioning into the evening with a brisk after-work stroll.
2. Time is your ally. Try using your calendar to plug in mini-breaks by scheduling phone reminders for a “movement snack” every 30-60 minutes. There are also many apps and websites that offer an interval timer like BeFocused or Tomatotimer.com. Make the commitment to do something active each time your timer goes off, even if it’s just to stand up and shake out the kinks.
3. Task-based cues. You can also use your work tasks as cues. For example, you could set an intention to complete 10 sit-to-stands for every 10 messages sent. You can also look for meetings in your day that allow you to be mobile. On the phone? Stand up and pace around a bit! Meeting with colleagues? Download the Google Hangouts or Zoom app on your phone and take your meeting outside.
4. Leverage your environment This is perhaps the least obvious but can be just as effective. With an environmental cue, you’ll look to designate specific rooms or pieces of furniture in your home as a cue to move. A few popular ones are busting out a few squats before opening the refrigerator, breaking into some lunges before sitting down on the couch or taking a brief moment to stretch out any kinks when coming back to your workstation. Given the number of options in most homes, don’t go overboard here! Find 2 or 3 favorites that work for you. If you need the extra reminder to start building the habit, try placing a sticky note nearby.
5. Listen to your body. Let’s drop the fancy tactics for this one and bring our attention inwards for a moment. Have you experienced your arm or leg falling asleep? How do you get the “pins and needles” feeling to stop? You shake your arm, wiggle your fingers, and walk around on your leg, right? The same thing happens when you’re in the same position for too long. When you begin to feel discomfort, your body sends signals to let you know it might be time to move. It’s not that sitting or slouching is necessarily bad, but if you experience pain in one certain position, it might be time to pay attention and shift positions. So do it! If you’re sitting, stand, try flipping your chair or stool around. Experiment with different positions, and when you feel that signal, shift again.
Keep it moving
For all its perks, working from home can still be a challenge. Movement habits are a great way to help yourself stay physically and mentally healthy, boost productivity, and break your day up. Some might say that we just don’t have the time to move, but it’s clear that given the benefits, we don’t have time not to move. By taking brief moments every hour to move, you’re bound to feel much better at the end of even the longest of your workdays. Now that’s the kind of movement we can all get behind!
For more tips on back and joint exercises to do while working from home, check out this tip sheet.
Through sensor-guided exercise therapy and remote 1-on-1 coaching, Hinge Health offers a holistic approach to reducing chronic back and joint pain. To learn more about how the three pillars of exercise therapy, education, and behavioral health drive long-term outcomes, request a demo below.
About the Author
Michael Craigen is a Health Coach at Hinge Health. He is a Board Certified Health Coach with a Master’s degree in Integrative Health. As a Hinge Health Coach of 2 years, he has helped over 1000 people navigate and conquer the challenges of persistent pain, using exercise therapy as the cornerstone. After hours, you can find him on stage in a local theatre production or playing guitar too loudly in his bandmate’s garage.