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Staying Fit While Working From Home During Pandemic

By CARRI GRAHAM

Staff Writer

With many local residents transitioning from working in an office to working at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials are suggesting ways they can maintain their physical and mental health.

Making a few small lifestyle changes can help improve a person’s home work environment. These include practicing good posture, incorporating movement into your work day, choosing healthy snacks, being well rested and keeping connected with family and friends.

Joe Slavik, director of Howard Long Wellness Center, said making a few adjustments can positively impact your body and mental wellbeing.

Slavik said practicing good posture and properly setting the computer screen can help improve a person’s orthopedic health. The first thing people should consider is getting proper chair alignment, he said.

“If you are sitting at a screen for hours at a time, then that chair needs to be positioned correctly to avoid putting added pressure on the shoulders and neck. The head is a very heavy object — if things aren’t aligned correctly then you get that forward head tilt and that can create issues,” he said.

Standard practices to ensure a person is sitting correctly are to make sure both feet are flat on the ground, hips and knees are at a 90 degree angle in the chair, and that the lower back is pressed into the chair support. Another way to improve posture is to ensure the computer screen is elevated, he said.

“If the screen is down below your head level then what happens is you’re always tilting your head down. … The top 25 percent of your screen should be above your eyes,” he said.

A good option is to use a standing desk, which could also benefit a person’s posture and allow for more movement in the work day, Slavik said. Sit-stand desks allow a person to alternate between the two positions, which can improve blood flow and help burn calories, he said.

Also, designating a separate area for work is crucial in maintaining a healthy work and home environment.

Slavik said including movement and taking short exercise breaks are important steps to improve health. He recommends stretching every 30 minutes — reaching out your arms, doing shoulder shrugs, or touching your knees to your chest. The best exercise is to do 10 squats every 30 minutes during the work day to reset your posture and improve blood flow. Additionally, Slavik recommends taking breaks outdoors to get fresh air when possible.

Slavik said those working from home need to be extra cautious with their eating habits and maintain a balanced diet. Instead of chips or crackers, he suggests eating fruits or vegetables as a snack substitute since they are much more nutritious, full of fiber, minerals, vitamins and are more easily metabolized. Replacing soda and high-sugar drinks with black coffee, green tea, black tea or water are optimal choices.

Getting plenty of sleep will also improve a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Ensuring the room is completely dark is an important factor in a good night’s sleep, Slavik said. Eliminating the use of electronics, whether it is for work or leisure, at least one hour prior to going to bed is optimal for a deeper sleep, he said.

It is also important to build in some sort of interaction with family members or friends throughout the day that is not work-related, Slavik said. Face-to-face interaction is the best option to improve a person’s mental health — this includes virtual interactions through online platforms.

“Those have impacts on a person. If you’re stuck in a room and not talking to anyone … You need that human interaction. Sometimes people forget that and then get into a situation where they’re feeling isolated and that can lead to anxiety and depression. Avoiding that is important,” he said.

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