The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed. For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, the social distancing has been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family. We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.
Because social distancing is a key strategy for controlling the spread of COVID-19, many of us have started to meet with friends and co-workers remotely online. The last pandemic in 1918 did not have this luxury. We are fortunate to live in a time where technology can help us stay connected and do our work. The downside however is more time looking at a screen which limits the movement of our whole body for more time each day.
You might have noticed in in greater tension in your neck or hands, more back pain or headaches. When connecting in person, movement is built in. When staring at a screen to connect, not only is movement limited, but your body is pulled out of alignment. Your head weighs about 12 lb. When you are looking forward, your head gradually migrates forward too and that pulls your spine out of alignment. (not a chiropractic alignment, but a positioning of your body so your spine is lined up). Its normal to slip into a slouch. But, as we discussed last week, sitting or standing out of alignment creates more work for muscles in your body and those muscles then have to let you know they are over working. The way they do that is through pain and stiffness.
When your screen time is stressful, it also strains your body. Stress prepares your body for movement. Like revving the engine in your car when it is not moving, sitting and being stressed wastes energy. This is why you can feel like you ran a marathon after a day of working on your computer. Your body is working and draining your energy because it is ready to move.
But even if you do take walking breaks, your body is still missing something important – whole-body movement. Walking is a limited movement. Every part of your body that moves needs to move on those screen time breaks. Taking whole-body movement breaks, with movements for everything from your eyes to your feet is how exercise can help you stay well even with more screen time. Here is how:
- Start by closing your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath to help you relax as you do the following movements
- Look at the farthest distance you can, then move your eyes (without moving your head) side to side, up and down, all around. Hold on to something as you do this if you tend to lose your balance easily
- While sitting or standing, take off your shoes if possible, and move the joints in your feet and ankles
- Bend and straighten your knees slowly all the way
- Move your hips around by moving your legs in all directions one leg at a time sitting or standing and shifting your weight around through your hip joints
- Face a wall, chair or table and hold on as you move your spine slowly in all directions
- Hold on with one hand to something stable and then move your other arm through your shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrists and fingers
- Sit or stand holding on to something and move around through your neck, lifting your head slowly up and down and side to side
Research supports the importance of using exercise to be healthy, both in one longer bout several times a week and by moving in several short bouts sprinkled thorough each day.
- This study of adults ages 64-84 found sitting time was directly connected to lower muscle mass and those who took more frequent breaks from sitting had a 45% lower risk of sarcopenia- the loss of muscle mass that is strongly connected to longevity and health.
- This study found that having lower back pain was connected with sitting time. As sitting time went down, so did lower back pain.
- This study found that breaking up sitting time every thirty minutes with three minute bouts of simple strength training exercises resulted in lower blood sugars after meals.
Bottom Line: To stay well in this new normal that involves more screen time, one of the most beneficial things you can do is get up every thirty minutes and move each part of your body from your eyes to your feet.
Keep moving, be well,