by Jessica Von Duerring, Pilates and Barre Conditioning-Certified
October is National Ergonomics Month, so it is the perfect time to take a look at how ergonomics relate to your health and well-being. Ergonomics is the study of how your body interacts with your environment when you perform a task or activity. Office ergonomics, in particular, aim to minimize physical effort and discomfort, and maximize efficiency while you do your job.
Certain strengthening exercises and stretches can assist in alleviating strain and discomfort caused by an incorrect office setup, forceful movements, repetitive motions, awkward postures or lack of rest. Try some of the following simple exercises and stretches throughout the day to help relieve tension in commonly overworked muscles. (Note: If you feel pain with any of these exercises, please stop and consult your doctor.)
:: Wrist and Forearm Stretch: Interlace your fingers with your palms facing outward, and straighten your arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five times. Tip: A good way to prevent wrist discomfort is to reduce mouse use by learning keyboard shortcuts. Check your software program on how to set up and use them.
:: Hand and Finger Exercise: Place a small, strong rubber band around the ends of your fingers, excluding your thumb. Separate and straighten your fingers for 10 seconds, and switch back and forth between hands. Repeat up to five times.
:: Seated Rotation Stretch: While sitting in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, rotate your upper body to one side and place your hands on the back of your chair. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Slowly rotate back to the starting position and then repeat in the opposite direction.
:: Shoulder Shrugs: Raise your shoulders toward your ears. Hold,and then relax downward to a normal position. Repeat 10 times.
:: Neck Stretch: Let your chin drop forward and roll your right ear over your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds and then return to center. Repeat on left side.
:: Neck Resistance Exercise: Clasp your hands behind your head and press your head backward, resisting with your hands. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat.
:: Low Back Stretch: Slowly lean forward while exhaling and let your head and arms drop as far as comfortable. Hold for five seconds. Inhale and begin slowly rolling back up one vertebrae at a time, starting at the base of your spine. Exhale again, and stretch your arms toward the ceiling. Repeat five times.
:: Hip Stretch: Bend your left leg over your right leg and look over to left shoulder. Place your right hand on your left thigh and apply pressure. Repeat to other side.
Remember to take breaks! At minimum, take a 5-10 minute rest break every one hour of work. Walk around, get some water or do other work to exercise different muscles. For example, split computer-intensive tasks with non-computer tasks. Also, avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes. Every 20 minutes, refocus your eyes away from the computer screen to an outside window or other object at least 25 feet away.
By doing the above exercises, you will be more likely to prevent headaches, eyestrain, back and neck pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome – all of which are symptoms of poor ergonomics. These stretches are meant to loosen you up, keep you more alert and make a big difference in how you work and feel!