How to stay healthy while working at home during coronavirus lockdown

Being cooped up at home means a lot more sitting and scoffing.

Scientists have long agreed that a sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity, putting you at higher risk of heart disease.

And working from home without proper kit can lead to posture problems as well as aches, pains and strains.

There has been a 50 per cent increase in complaints to do with muscles, bones and tendons during lockdown, the Institute for Employment Studies says.

Here, osteopath Andrew Doody, from the Fleet Street Clinic, reveals how to take care of yourself while working from home and staring at a screen.

Sitting pretty

Stretch over to your chest

Designate a set area in your house for working, ideally with a table and chair.

Kitchen and dining chairs are not as good as office ones because they are not ­adjustable. But you can make simple changes for a healthier posture, such as ensuring your feet are flat on the floor and knees are ­angled at 90 degrees.

If you are short, stack a couple of thick books under your feet and if you are tall, use a couple of firm pillows on the chair to bring your knees into line.

Don’t work with your laptop or tablet on the sofa or in bed.

Doing this means you will slip down or slump, which is not good for your neck. It will also cause a C-shape curve in your spine.

This is known as couch potato spine and will lead to an unnatural arc that will likely leave you with lower back pain, mid-back spasms and aches in your neck.

If you do not have a table and must use your sofa, the key is to avoid ­slumping. Use a small pillow or roll a towel and put it in the curve of your lower back to help you stay sitting upright.

Stand-up desks are becoming a ­popular choice – or even sitting on an exercise ball.

Avoid laptop neck

Screen time can cause many issues

Many people working from home will be using a laptop. These are

great for use every now and then but if you work long hours, you may start feeling pain in your neck and spasms in your mid and lower back, as well as shoulder and wrist pain.

This is because the screen is attached to the keyboard and you ­cannot adjust it without compromising your neck.

You will lean forward, flexing the thoracic – upper ­section – of your spine. And instead of your head ­sitting comfortably on top of your neck without much muscular effort, it will have shifted ­forward an inch or more, leaving the neck to act like a crane, pulling it back.

Bigger muscles in the area ­designed to work for short ­periods at higher ­intensity then have to work for hours to maintain this awkward position, causing strains and a build-up of lactic acid.

Try using a separate mouse and keyboard instead. These can be ­delivered to your door and are fairly cheap.

Position your keyboard far enough away so your arms rest flat and comfortably on the table. Then elevate your laptop using a few decent-sized cookbooks so your eyebrows are level with the top of the screen.

This will stop you slumping your chin to your chest or leaning ­forward and over-flexing the muscles at the back of your neck.

The separate mouse will prevent you bringing your elbow into your side to use the laptop’s mousepad, which can lead to elbow tendonitis, shoulder pain and carpal tunnel or repetitive strain injury in your wrists.

Embrace the privacy

Workout by standing and bending to one side

One of the best things about working from home is the privacy – and the ability to move around on your own terms.

Get up every 20 to 30 minutes and do some stretches. If you forget, as many of us do, set an annoying and loud alarm in a separate room so you must get up to turn it off.

You can also try using a headset and walking around whenever you have to make or take a call.

To stretch out properly, try a free pilates session. There are plenty of five-minute classes on YouTube that you can squeeze into your work day away from your desk. Yoga is good for mobility but pilates is great for increasing stability in your core and reminding your brain how to use the right muscles when sitting or standing.

You can even do the plank while you’re watching a screen.

Keep moving

Avoid sore muscles and a wrecked neck

Laptop neck, or text neck – which you’ll get when standing or sitting hunched over your mobile using one hand to hold your phone –

causes big problems too. This position can compress your rib cage and lungs, causing the muscles across the front of your chest to tighten.

It can also cause fatigue, especially when you’re checking your phone while slumped on the sofa or laying in bed.

Regular movement and changes in your body’s position means you will avoid putting stress and strain on your muscles and joints.

If you are working on your sofa, do not just put your laptop to one side, flick on the TV and eat your lunch in the same spot.

Move somewhere away from your workstation to eat – whether that means going outside to your balcony or garden, or standing by your kitchen counter for ten minutes. The fresh air and a change of scenery will do you good. Don’t slouch while eating either, as it can cause indigestion and heartburn.

Garden escape

Don’t work in bed

Lockdown gardening may be a great stress reliever and give you a break from your desk but it can ruin your posture if you don’t do it correctly.

Many of the tasks involve working, ­bending or kneeling at low level so bring everything you can up to waist level – for ­instance, potted plants.

If you have to bend over and hold that position when weeding, do not do it for long.

Take regular breaks and make sure your tools are long enough for the job.

Mow the lawn more often so the grass is shorter too, reducing the need to hunch forward to give the mower more welly.

■ For more tips, see fleetstreetclinic.com.

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