How to Minimize Aches & Pains Through Movement – Tips for the Work From Home Crowd
Since the pandemic, many of us have shifted to working from home (WFH). While WFH policies have created a lot of flexibility for us, it also came with a lot of ….sitting. In one place. All day. Every (week)day. All the walking to the meetings, cafeteria, coffee room or lunch out with colleagues became a short video conference or a 10-second walk to the kitchen or bathroom.
When you move less, you might feel your body aching more, unfortunately. Humans (and most animals — apart from maybe a sloth) weren’t meant to be sedentary, and our body will let us know with stiffness and pain when we’re not moving and grooving enough!
Authors Juliet and Kelly Starrett released the book, Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully, which outlines basic movements you can do each week to boost your physical health. The Starretts give you tips to decrease the stiffness, aches, and pains that can come with being less mobile. We’ve outlined 8 of them below!
1. Stretch while you sit on the floor, using three simple positions
As you sit in a chair each day, your body stiffens in the same position, and may ache from the lack of movement. To get a different kind of movement in, consider sitting on the floor for a few minutes—15 to 30—each day. Try these three positions:
1. Sit criss cross with your legs in front of you
2. Sit with one leg bent at 90 degrees in front of you. While resting on the front, bend the other leg at a 90-degree angle so that its foot is behind you. Do each side for five minutes!
3. Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, leaning slightly forward.
2. When you get up from the floor, don’t use assistance (if possible)
It takes practice, but it’s a worthy challenge that can improve your long-term health and wellbeing!
This is a challenge that can be slightly harder than you think! When you stand up from the floor (or even up from your chair), avoid using the arms of a chair or supports nearby. Use your core and arm and leg muscles instead. For an extra challenge, also avoid putting your hand on your knee. Some research has shown that standing up from the floor without assistance is also a predictor of long life.
3. Squat more frequently!
In a variety of cultures, squatting is a much more frequently used posture than in the US. The squat position can be good for the knees, back, hips, and pelvic floor. You want to make sure your feet are slightly further apart than the hips, feet slightly turned out, and squat as low as you can with your heels on the floor. Unlike the last recommendation, you can use a wall or something similar to support you!
4. Balance on one leg
Falls can be extremely dangerous as we age. There are about 36 million falls each year in the US alone, with a third requiring medical attention. One way to prevent falls is to practice balance! Each day, try standing on one leg—simply lift up the other or do a “tree pose” from yoga—for 10-20 seconds on each side. Staring at one fixed point can help you as you get started. Start with 10 seconds, then move to 20, and then, if you really want to challenge yourself, try with your eyes closed!
5. Get more steps in — with some weight added
This one is obvious—take a few more walks per day. The recommendation is 10,000 steps per day, and if you’re not close to that yet, try increasing your number of steps by 500-1000 each week! Your phone likely has a steps tracker, though some people love to use an Apple watch or FitBit to track their activity. I wear this 8 pound vest to walk the dogs around the neighborhood.
If you want to up the ante, you can also get some walking weights to make your walk a more intense aerobic activity! Here’s an adjustable one I use if I need to amp up the cardio.
6. Try a standing desk
If you’re sitting at work or your remote job all day, try standing for 20-30 minutes! You can invest in a standing desk for sure, but you could also bring a laptop to a countertop or higher table in your home. Take one call per day while standing or do 30 minutes standing after lunch!
7. Circle your arms
Remember those activities from middle school gym class where you would hold your arms out to the side and circle them in tiny circles over and over and over again? And it somehow was the most tiresome of all the exercises (push-ups included)?
Try doing a few rounds of those per day! 30 seconds in one direction, followed by 30 seconds in the other direction, or about 10 rounds each.
8. BONUS: Give yourself a little foot massage!
Your feet are powerful proprioceptors in the body; this means, they help sense where your body is in space. Your feet have been desensitized by the thick shoes we wear all the time. Rubbing the soles of your feet or even massaging your toes several times a week can help your feet restore their proprioceptive abilities.
I recently learned about the benefits of walking barefoot as it lets your foot move naturally. As I like wearing shoes, these Xero shoes give me the right protection and support without having to go ‘sans’ shoes.
There are plenty of simple things you can do to move more and feel less aches and pains throughout the day. Try one or a few of these tips this week and see how your body feels afterwards!