During this period of the lockdown between working from home and running a household; the physical demands on the body have increased greatly. There are various factors contributing to this; the mechanics of the way we perform household chores, prolonged hours of sitting and lastly fitness routines that are being practiced at home without supervision. Here are a few modifications that we can make to our daily routines to stay fit and injury – free.
1) Spinal Mobility
Repetitive and sustained loading causes wear and tear to the spine. Avoid repeated forward bending activities and modify your household chores to reduce the load on the spine. Begin and end your day with full spine mobility exercises like the Cat – Camel or Child’s Pose Stretch.
2) Mechanics Of Standing
While performing activities that require us to stand such as cooking, we tend to stand with our tummy protruding out and pelvis pushed forward. What does this mean to the lay person? This posture causes undue strain on the ligaments and muscles of the low back leading to mechanical low back pains. Ideally, one should stand with his or her tailbone tucked in and the abdomen slightly pulled in, ensuring that there is equal distribution of weight between both legs while you stand.
3) Activity Modifications
Here are some slight but important modifications we can make while conducting common household chores such as cleaning, sweeping, mopping and doing laundry.
a) When cleaning higher surfaces, use step stools or ladders to avoid over – straining the arms.
b) While mopping, use longer sticks to maintain an erect posture rather than being half bent over. Another easy modification you can make while you mop is to get onto your hands and knees and get into a crawling position. The crawl is a much safer position than the deep squat.
c) When lifting laundry out of the machine get into a mini squat instead of bending forward. As much as possible, avoid repeatedly bending forward and replace it with postures that are safer for the spine.
d) During phone and video calls, use headphones or the speakerphone option rather than squeezing the phone between your shoulder and neck while you multitask. This prevents the building of undue tightness in the muscles at the side of the neck, which can be a leading cause of various neck pains.
4) Workstation Ergonomics
While working from home, follow the same ergonomic rules that one would while at the workplace. The screen should always be maintained at eye – level, arms & feet supported at all times and thighs parallel to the ground. Take the tension off your neck by ensuring that you do not shrug your shoulders. You can use a small cushion for lumbar support. You can switch to a standing desk to off – load the spine from the sitting position, while you follow the same ergonomic principles.
5) Stretch & Mobilize Regularly
The sustained sitting posture and excessive use of the phone and computer increase the tension in the muscles of the neck and the low back. Stretch your over–worked muscles and give some mobility to the spine before getting back into a similar posture. A great mobility exercise while you’re seated is upper back rotations to prevent the thoracic spine from getting stiff. A simple and easy way to prevent knee stiffness is by doing a couple of knee extensions in sitting position every hour or two.
6) Break Your Posture
Most of you are working from home and may go hours before giving yourself and your spine a break. Every 35 – 40 minutes get off your seat and take about 30 seconds before you get back to that position. The sitting position causes increased mechanical loads on the spine, which leads to avoidable low back pains.
7) Fitness Routine
– To get through an entire day efficiently and without complaining of aches & pains, one must remember to strengthen not only the big, aesthetic muscles but also the small, stability ones. Make sure your fitness regimen comprises of upper and lower body core workouts. Strengthening is as important as stretching. Don’t forget to –
- Hydrate adequately to ensure you don’t cramp or cause early muscle fatigue.
- Stretch and use a heat pack to take care of the soreness after an intense workout.
- Progress your exercises slowly, allowing your muscles to adapt in order to prevent an injury.