Brits are currently stuck indoors with no commute, gym, and limited access to public spaces. Many of us are bound to our desks all day, meaning aches and pains are likely to creep up from sitting in one position for too long. Express.co.uk chatted to Sports Scientist David Johnson from Capacity Training LTC to tell you how to stay active and avoid aches and pains in lockdown.
What happens to the body during inactive periods?
Did you know that even if you are exercising every day, you could still be considered a couch potato?
That’s right, a quick half an hour workout after being sat on the sofa all day may burn calories but it is still too many daily hours of inactivity.
David explained: “If you exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day all in one go, it is easy to spend 80 to 90 percent of your day sat down.
“A study in England showed that while 55 percent or more of adults met recommended physical activity guidelines, they were still sedentary for about 10 hours per day.”
He said: “Too many daily hours of inactivity, including time spent watching television – a classic couch potato move – may increase the risk of obesity and more than 30 other chronic illness.
“Inactivity has also been found to increase markers of heart disease.
“This activity imbalance can cancel out many of the positive effects of exercising, such as blood sugar control and better blood flow to the legs and brain.
“Being inactive for just four to six hours can cause an enzyme that helps the body use fat to make energy to drop.”
Whether you’re working from home or not, the Government guidelines have probably impacted your level of daily activity.
Being sat at a desk or on the sofa watching TV for a long time will weaken and tighten your muscles, and cause stiff, back, shoulders, and neck.
David explained: “The Neck and Back are most likely to suffer from sitting in one place for too long.
“Avoid prolonged sedentary periods, and try to keep moving throughout the day.
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David talked us through seven yoga-inspired stretches to ease tension in the neck or back.
Alongside the activities mentioned above, use these stretches when you have been sitting in one position for too long.
Chair pigeon pose
While seated in a chair, put both feet flat on the floor with your ankles below your knees.
Bring your right knee up to your chest and hug it.
Cross your right leg over your left leg, at a 90 degree angle.
Keep your foot flexed to avoid putting pressure on the knee.
This stretch will open up your hips, stretch out your thighs and gluten, and improve your posture.
It is also great for getting rid of lower back pain and stiffness.
Sit and stand chair pose
This one is easy. Put your arms out in front of you and sit on a chair.
Stand up with your arms still out in front of you, and then sit back down.
This exercise is great for mobility and will strengthen your legs, core, and back muscles.
Neck and back pain: There are plenty of stretches you can do while sat at a desk
Cow face arms
Extend your left arm up to the ceiling, with your palms facing forward.
Bend your left elbow and bring your left hand to your spine.
Extend your right arm to the side with your palm facing down, and internally rotate your arm so your palm faces behind you.
Bend your right elbow and bring your right hand up the centre of your back.
Tuck your forearm into the hollow of your lower back.
Roll your shoulders back and down, and hook the fingers of both hands (if you can!)
Make sure you keep both arms active, pushing your top elbow towards the ceiling and the other to the floor.
Repeat this on the opposite side.
Seated crescent moon pose
While sitting, raise both arms above your head and stretch all the way through your arms to the fingers, lifting your chest.
This pose stretches your rib cage, arms and torso. It’s also great for toning the oblique muscles.
Sit sideways on a chair, pressing your left hip into the back of the chair.
Align your feet and knees.
Inhale, and lift up through the spine towards the ceiling.
Turn to face the back of the chair and hold on to the chair back with your right hand.
Press your left palm against the other side.
Repeat on the other side.
This stretch is great for toning and stretching your spinal muscles, and relieving stiffness in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.
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Working from home
If you are working from home, it is difficult to remain active all day and you may find you become irritable with aches and pains.
David suggested the ideal desk set-up for you to mirror at home.
He said: “Having a proper desk set up is ideal.
“Make sure the top of your screen is at or slightly below eye level.
“Your feet should be firmly supported, with your thighs roughly parallel to the floor. Adjust your chair accordingly.
“You could also try a standing desk. Standing desks may have a role to play in relieving muscular discomfort which is a leading cause of days off amongst the UK workforce.”
Neck and back pain: Avoid pain by working with your computer and chair at the proper height
How often should I exercise in a day?
You should partake in some light movement every half an hour or so.
Use this time to get your housework done, like hoovering, and washing up by hand.
Alternatively, you could take a stroll around your garden, or play with children or pets.
David said: “Moderate-intensity activity may not cancel out the negative impact of prolonged sitting, making you an active couch potato.
“Break up these periods with a couple of minutes of light intensity activity, such as slow walking, every 30 minutes or so.
“This may be sufficient to keep blood sugar lower throughout the course of the day.
“Research to support this is still new and emerging and therefore, the government recommendations only state that we should “minimise prolonged sitting” at this time.“
Movement breaks work better than standing breaks for our adult population when it comes to markers of cardiovascular health.
“Ultimately, the message when it comes to reducing sitting (and standing) is not to stay in one position for too long.”
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Should I take a walk every day during lockdown?
While you are entitled to one walk a day under Government lockdown rules (as long as you are healthy and no one in your household is showing symptoms), this may not be the best thing for your health.
Instead, why not try a shorter walk in the morning then give yoga a go in the afternoon? Or try something new a give Barre a go, or even try a Joe Wicks workout.
David says: “More activity throughout the day is better than going on one walk after a long day of sitting.
“It’s a good idea to split up a period of doing nothing. If you do this repeatedly throughout the day, you should still be able to meet the physical activity guidelines.
“Spread this activity over the week, making sure you are active every day.”
If you are someone who enjoys a daily run through your local area, this is still helpful.
He added: “Do whatever is a moderate exercise for you, this means an exercise that gets you out of breath.”