Working from home indeed comes with a lot of perks! You get to enjoy more snooze time, plus you save yourself from the hassle of commutes, crowded public places and long queues. In case your work does not entail video calls, you can even work from home in your pajamas, so you can skip the process of dressing up and grooming for work.
I hate to break it to you though, working from home has disadvantages too. Unfortunately, these include potential harmful effects to your health. The main culprit? Immobility- you’re not moving much! You’re probably stuck in your work area all day, surrounded by snacks, sitting comfortably with your back bent and eyes fixed on the monitor for hours.
How does prolonged immobility affect some of the major body parts and organs?
- Stiff neck- feeling of soreness and difficulty in moving the neck
- Back pain and reduced muscle strength
- Lack of movement weakens core muscles and can lead to beer gut, love handles and muffin top.
- Joints from head to foot can become stiff and develop arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Numbness in your limbs.
- Increased risk of heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Brain becomes foggy as certain regions used for memory formation become thinner.
Terrifying, right? But don’t worry, there are plenty of quick and easy stretches and exercises that you can do from the comfort of your home.
1. Stretching and neck rotation
You need to stretch all major muscles and tendons (neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles) at least two to three times per week. Stretching can help improve posture, performance in physical activities and your range of motion; and minimizes risk of injury, back pain and muscle soreness.
To incorporate quick stretches into your daily working day routine, try the following movements every three to four hours:
- Slowly and gently rotate your head from side to side. Keep your motion small. The goal is to relax your neck and eliminate stiffness. Count to 8 while rotating clockwise, then count to 8 again as you rotate counter-clockwise.
Arms & legs stretching
- Stand with legs wide apart, lift one arm and reach towards the opposite side.
- Hold your position for 10 seconds.
- Repeat with the other arm.
Don’t overdo it- stretching until you feel pain can lead to muscle tears and injury. Be patient, as your flexibility will improve as you get used to moving your body frequently.
2. Meditation exercises
Your mental health matters- and sitting in front of the computer and the lack of social interaction can lead to mental exhaustion and migraines.
Take regular breaks to rest your eyes and relax your brain. This is especially important when you feel that you are about to lose it. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, control your anxiety and other negative emotions, and help you focus on the present.
To do this effectively:
- Find a calm and quiet place.
- Use your yoga mat, or any soft non-slippery material where you can sit or lie down. Or you can stay on your work chair.
- Focus on your breathing. Inhale as if you are smelling the flowers, exhale as if you are blowing out a candle.
- Close your eyes, relax and empty your mind.
- Do this as often as you need to.
To protect your mental well-being, recognize what your stressors are. Do you feel anxious when you listen to the news or when you find out that another friend has been infected with COVID-19? Stay away from the TV or social media.
3. Abs & core workout
Having a high percentage of belly fat is associated with cardiovascular problems. A strong core is not just for that sexy and slim waist, but can also give you the muscle strength you need to help you easily execute your everyday activities, such as household chores, twisting, turning or even standing up from a seating position. It helps you to perform better in sports and improves your balance and stability.
To trim your waist circumference and lose the love handles, here are abs & core exercises you can try:
- Abdominal scissors
- Starfish crunch
- Sit ups
- Side to side plank
- Russian twist
- Mountain climbers
And do you know that you can still strengthen your core while you’re sitted? Sit with your back straight, inhale and pull in your belly as tight as you can, hold for three to five seconds, then release as your exhale. You can also rotate at the waist, hold the pose for five seconds, go back to your original position and then repeat the same movement on the other side. Do these movements several times in one day, and you can avoid muscle tightness at the end of your work shift.
4. Leg exercises & squats
Sitting all day with just your hands and arms moving can lead to an unproportioned body. It’s like you’re skipping leg day! Your upper body might become bigger than your lower body when your legs are not being used and maximized.
To prevent this from happening:
- Take a break for 10 to 15 minutes after 2-3 hours of continuous work. Most bosses permit their employees to do this because they know the health risks associated with prolonged sitting.
- During short breaks, try to walk around, jog, do high knees or jumping jacks.
- Do lunges, squats and donkey kicks for your glutes and legs.
Want to pump up your heart rate during your short break? Try the Tabata method- each movement will last only 4 minutes, and it will be time well-spent. Tabata aims to produce the most benefits in a short period of time: you just simply choose a cardio move such as high knees or running in place for 20 seconds, pause for 10 seconds, and then repeat for the next 20 seconds, until you complete one round of 4 minutes and eight 20-second bouts of movement.
Maintain overall well-being while working from home
Aside from exercising, here are other great tips to maintain a healthy body and mind while working at home:
- Replace junk foods with fruits – Most people opt for junk food because it is easier to eat and can give you a temporary high. But let’s be honest, you know that it’s harmful for your health. Be more conscious about your eating choices and opt for fruits or veggie jerkies for a fun yet healthy snack!
- Pay attention to your body signals – you’re a human, not a robot. Listen to your body: if you’re feeling lethargic, if your body aches, if your eyes hurt, it’s time to take a break! Politely tell your boss that you’ll be away from the keyboard for a couple of minutes. Money means nothing if your health is at risk, so your health should always be your utmost priority. Get the adequate sleep your body needs to be productive and remember to exercise self care.
- Hydrate – drink at least 2 liters of water per day and have a water bottle at your work desk. Tiredness can lead to dehydration, so always make sure you hydrate as much as you can. If you’re not a fan of plain water, you can prepare fruit-infused water or healthy broth.
- Take care of your mental health – your brain is one of the most used organs in your body, that’s why it needs to be well taken care of. Eat foods that are good for your brain to maintain your mental focus and alertness.
- Create a pleasant at-home work environment – keep your work desk neat and tidy, make sure that you have everything you need nearby, and work in an area with lots of natural light. Add your personal touches, such as a plant or pictures of your loved ones. Play relaxing music and diffuse essential oils that can improve your focus or help you relax.
- Interact with a human – social interaction is critical to every aspect of our health. Technology has allowed us to work remotely, but at the end of the day, we still need the human touch to thrive. So take time to talk with your housemates, pick up your phone and call a friend, or use your messaging app to send a quick ‘hello’ to someone.
We enjoy the convenience and flexibility of working from home, but remember that it can also be a silent threat to your health. This applies not just for working at home, but for every area of your life. When you are too busy to take care of yourself and incorporate some physical movements into your day, your health problems will catch up with you one day. Ditch the immobility, get moving and stay strong and healthy!