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Iso Fit's guide to wellbeing at work

Fix your sore back and neckCrunched up over your desk, feeling the strain from your slouch? It sounds strange but sitting at your desk all day can be harmful to your health. Office ergonomics is a hot topic as more and more people suffer from lower back pain, strained and tight muscles.

In the UK, according to the National Health Service (NHS) about 150 million working days are lost each year because of lower back pain and it is the second most common cause of long-term sickness, after stress. In Hong Kong the Labour Department address the common condition with a 'Work Related Neck and Back Pain' pamphlet, which provides useful tips to prevent and correct the condition - http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/public/oh/Neck.pdf

The most common causes of back pain are strained muscles or ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress. Modifying your work station to ensure your keyboard is in a comfortable position and investing in a supportive chair are good steps to creating a better work environment- but what about the way you are sitting yourself, can this have a negative impact?

Dawnna Wayburne, Head Pilates and GYROTONIC ®  Master Trainer at Iso Fit said: "Often when people come into our studio with back complaints we generally find that they don't know how to sit properly. If this is the case and they are sitting this way at their desk for eight hours a day, it stands to reason that their sitting posture is a significant contributing factor to their problem. What we teach, through Pilates and Gyrotonic, is how to correct posture by improving body alignment and building core and back muscles so that they are strong enough to sit upright all day."

Dawnna continued: "Most people tend to slouch forward or back when they are sitting down, unaware that there is a set of "sitting bones" in their posterior that they should directly place their weight on. We aim to make people postural aware and know where these "sitting bones" are. At first it feels unnatural but once the muscles of the "inner unit" strengthen then it becomes more comfortable and the benefits become clear."

Using your lunch break to take a Pilates or Gyrotonic class is a good way to get you up to make you more aware about your posture and to improve it. With the workout not being cardio based, you hardly build up a sweat so you can finish your class and head straight back to the office without feeling hot and sweaty. Iso Fit runs daily classes in both Mat and Group Reformer Pilates. Private tuition as well as Rehabilitation exercise are also available if there is a particular ache or pain you want to focus on. 

Your exercise regimen doesn't stop when you walk out of the studio as there are a variety of effective exercises that you can perform in your office. Iso Fit gives five examples of core strengthening exercises which are easy to do in the office:

 

1. The "Waitress"

Exercise: Sitting directly on top of your "sitting bones". Position your arms at right angles with your elbows at the side of your waist and palms facing upwards. Gently move your hands to the side opening up the chest. Try this with a small hand towel or scarf for extra challenge to the external rotators of the shoulder.

Benefit: Strengthens supportive back muscles essential for good posture and opens up the chest.

 

2. Calf stretch for hellish heels

Exercise: Slip your shoes off and stand on the edge of a step. Release the heel downwards off the step while the toes remain on the edge of the step.

Benefit: Stretches calves and relieves tension. If calf tension is released then muscles along the kinetic chain are also released which could positively impact LB (low back) pain.

 

3. The chest stretch

Exercise: Place one hand on a wall, no higher than your shoulder. Draw your abdominals up and gently turn your body away from your arm.

Benefit: Open and stretches front muscles, undoes the slouch and tightness and significantly improves overhead reaching.

 

4. The cross over

Exercise: Sit on your chair a little away from your desk. Remember to sit up on your "sitting bones" (this requires extra deep abdominal support). Cross one leg over the other at a bent angle (make sure you are not wearing a skirt for this one, ladies!). Place your hands on your desk. Position your "sitting bones" behind you, lift up your tummy and move your spine forward over your desk. Feel the stretch in the back of your thighs and glutes (the muscles in your posterior).

Benefits: Releases tightness and tension through the lower back by releasing tension in the glutes which are often the culprit with regard to LB Pain

 

5. Rotation

Exercise: Sit on your "sitting bones". Cross your arms and hold your elbows. Sit as tall as you can and breathe in. Exhale, draw your abdominals in and twist to one side. Exhale and return to your starting position.

Benefits: Engages and balances the use of oblique abdominal and rotator muscles which are vital "slings" of the body that we often tend to under use when walking due to the bags we carry. This in turn leads to the overworking of outer muscle groups to support mobility.