Is Your Desk Job Affecting Your Riding?
It’s a very common scenario when I talk to riders and a lot of them when not riding spend a lot of time at a desk or sitting in a car. Now depending on where you live and what sort of lifestyle you lead, you can’t deny the fact that as a population we tend to lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle compared to say 50 years ago and I want to change that. The typical 9-5 job tends to lend itself to long office hours, strict deadlines, meetings, commuting and then often this same person is then home to the couch in and around a ride somewhere during there day. The truth is we are spending far too long on our bottoms! New research is now showing that this sedentary life is, in fact, heading you towards much more serious health problems.
When you spend the average of 6+ hours sitting at your desk, the odd walk to get a drink of water and ride at the end of your day doesn’t quite undo all the negative effects that sitting has on your body. Desk life is a fast way to make you age faster and it is increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic damage and so much more. This may seem quite over the top and for some, you may think I am being a tad dramatic, but the research is out there and increasing all the time about the negative effects sitting has on our body. The problem is we think it doesn’t apply to us. In 2013 Sovereign did some research on New Zealanders a more than half of Kiwis (55%) think that New Zealanders, as a nation, are not very healthy and 53% of Kiwis believe they live a healthier lifestyle than the average New Zealander. Now, this is just New Zealand, imagine what the united states, united kingdom or Australia results would be like. These results showed the old attitude that this information doesn’t apply to them, yet it does more so than ever! The truth is if you were really honest with yourself you know you could do better.
How Is Our Office Affecting Our Bodies
Our bodies simply aren’t designed to be sitting all day, day in and day out. This sedentary office-based lifestyle affects our natural physical makeup. Often when I talk to clients they feel like they have to sit all day and that they are trapped in this position from 9-5 because it the nature of the job and its the business they work for fault they are sedentary. I then go on to ask how they spend the others hours of their day and the truth eventually comes out. The fact is often the average person who believes they are stuck in this position will then tend to also spend the other hours of their day, stuck in this exact same position, with the difference being they have moved from a computer chair to a couch. This lack of movement throughout the day results in low-energy, dull mood, lack of mobility, increased pain, stiffness and many other long-term health-related problems. Not to mention the effects this has on how you ride your horse!
I am not denying that there aren’t workspaces out there where it is hard to fit in regular movement based breaks, but what I am saying is you have 24 hours in a day, if you are stuck in this one position for 8, how can you spend the other awake hours to reverse the damage and how can you take ownership of how you spend your day. There are other hours in your day where you do have choices and it’s important to break up those 8 hours in the middle of the day because this is where the negative effects take place.
A lot of companies are doing a great job of promoting ergonomic working conditions. However, despite their efforts, the employees still practice poor posture and spend endless hours in one position at their desk. The solution lies in you taking ownership of how you move your body, these companies can provide you with all the options, but at the end of the day, you need to take ownership of what you do.
Now the key to preventing back pain and other health-related issues to look at your day holistically, ask yourself how much time do you spend sitting? Something to aim for and work towards each day is to spend 50% sitting and 50% standing or moving. Now, I know for those of you who work full time in an office environment it’s easy for me to suggest that you start nagging your boss for new stand up desks, but I also know that this is a huge thing to ask and would not likely to happen right away this is why its important for you to know you don’t need a flash desk. In fact, you can make a standing desk, by just using a few boxes stacked up. I have done this many times!
The key is you need to take ownership of your days, you need to think about how you can reverse the effects of sitting have on your body and you need to make it happen for yourself. Too often we are looking to others for the quick fix or we are blaming others for our current situation. You have the solution, the key is in taking ownership of your day. Here are some things you can start with.
- Keep Active – Walk before work, ride before work, take frequent breaks and before you crash on the couch after work move again, do a workout.
- Ensure the exercise you are doing is helping to help counteract the negative effects of sitting and helping to improve your posture.
- Use a chair that is helping you sit correctly and research how to get your desks set up ergonomically.
- Set a timer every 60 minutes and take a 2-minute break, stand and walk.
- Set your desk up for 2-3 hours a day on a bookshelf, standing shelf, window sill or somewhere that allows you to stand.
Employers Can Make A Difference
While I know there are some incredible employers out there helping to get workplaces more active it is up to you to start and make the change. The awesome thing is there are changes happening and I even know of a primary school in the states that now use stand up desks for their classes. Business is starting to catch on and pay attention to what sitting does to us. If you are an employer and you are looking to improve the health and wellness of your employees, here are some things you can do:
- Encourage your staff to take care of their health, lead from the top and set a healthy example.
- Show them it’s about productivity. 7 hours of work that is produced due to frequent walk breaks, standing meetings and workout at lunch is far better than 8-9 hours of sleepy, dull, unfocused and unproductive work hours.
- Design a workspace that allows spaces to have a stand-up desk. Like standing meeting rooms. If employees they have laptops provide options for them to move for an hour or so to a standing station.
- Provide your workplace with education about the importance of movement. Get personal trainers in to teach them how they can prevent back pain and what exercises to do to reduce the negative effects of sitting.
- Train employees on how they can take care of their health and how they can increase the amount of physical activity within your work environment.
No matter how big your business or what your desk job is you can start to take steps in helping to protect your health and well being. Don’t take the attitude that it will never happen to me, start to be honest and take charge of your health and how you spend your day. If your body is showing you signs and symptoms of a sore back or other sitting related issues ask yourself what can you do to prevent this.
We spend so much time looking at our horses and our horses health. If you want to get better at riding you also need to look at your health. Look at your day, are you spending longer than 90 minutes in a row sitting, can you spend 50% of your day standing or active. Remember you are what you eat and equally important you are how you move your body. So if you are sedentary for the majority of your day and your body is complaining in some way shape or form, ask yourself is there a way I can improve my current moving situation?
Moving, standing and being more active throughout your day will not only improve your energy but will also improve your posture and natural biomechanics that will ultimately help you become a much more balanced rider. Put the effort into taking care of you as much as you take care of your horse.