Long periods of sitting while working from home not only cause weight gain, harm to the back muscles and bones, and increase the risk of blood clots in the legs.
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Health Challenges of Working from Home
After Covid, many organizations adopted a work-from-home or hybrid model, which has benefited workers in numerous ways, including improved sleep, the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and financial savings on transportation. However, working from home has a number of drawbacks that cannot be ignored in terms of general health. We may become less active as a result of the model, which may also have an impact on our health in other ways. Working from home requires many individuals to spend long periods of time in the same posture, and when they don’t frequently exercise or walk, they run the risk of developing bone, muscle, and joint problems, according to specialists. To remain in peak condition, muscles and joints need regular exercise, and failing to move enough may cause their health to worsen over time. (See also: Exercises to fix these 5 risky sitting positions.
Not leaving the house may also lower vitamin D exposure, which can influence calcium absorption and bone health. Lack of environment change may also make one drab and deplete energy.
Risky for bones and may result in catastrophic situations
“Work from home (WFH) is the newest kind of self-inflicted, silent suffering for the human body that originated during Covid and is still widely used today. The adage “sitting is the new smoking” is true; the extended sitting necessary for many occupations is just as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. Long-term sitting increases your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can cause pulmonary embolism (clot migrating to lungs), which can be fatal. This is according to Dr. Prof. Puneet Mishra, Additional Director & Unit Head Orthopaedics, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. Prolonged sitting also causes weight gain, damages your back bones and muscles.
Inappropriate posture makes aches and pains worse.
“Work from home forces you to sit for long periods of time, which hinders your sitting posture and causes you to slouch down from the proper lumbar erect posture. Over time, this causes the lower and mid back muscles to weaken and gradually leads to early muscle fatigue, which causes mid and lower back pain as well as frequent neck pain and spasms. This is made worse by a sedentary lifestyle, which raises the likelihood of back, neck, and shoulder aches on a regular basis by decreasing core body strength and endurance, according to Dr. Prof. Mishra.
WFH elements that may have an impact on bone health
While there is no clear scientific proof that work from home arrangements make people’s bones weaker, Dr. Saksham Mittal, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics, Pristyn Care believes there are several remote work-related variables that might possibly have an indirect impact on bone health.
- Sedentary lifestyle: People who work from home may have more sedentary lifestyles in which they may spend lengthy periods of time sitting at a desk or on a sofa. Sedentary behavior is linked to a number of health problems, including weaker bones.
- Lack of physical activity: People who work from home could forego their daily commute, workplace strolls, or other incidental physical activities they used to engage in when they were employed in a regular office environment. Strong bones need regular physical exercise to remain strong.
- Lessened exposure to natural sunlight: Sunlight exposure, which is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D, may be diminished by spending extended amounts of time inside. Bone health and calcium absorption depend on vitamin D.
- Poor ergonomics: Some people may not have the best home office arrangement, which can cause poor posture and long-term stress on the bones and muscles.
- Stress and mental health: Prolonged worry and stress, which are made worse by working from home, may have an indirect effect on bone health.
- Spinal health: Bad posture when seated, particularly in seats that don’t provide enough support, may cause spinal misalignment and put more strain on the intervertebral discs. This may eventually cause back pain and other spinal problems.
- Reduced bone density: Maintaining bone density requires weight-bearing workouts, when your bones support the weight of your body. Long periods of sitting result in less weight-bearing exercise, which may lower bone density and raise the risk of osteoporosis.
- Blood flow is restricted because of certain postures’ compression of blood vessels, which limits blood flow to the muscles and joints. Reduced blood flow may hinder the transport of nutrients to these regions and hinder the body’s capacity to maintain and repair tissues.
- Effect on ligaments and tendons: Poor posture and prolonged sitting may have an adverse effect on the ligaments and tendons that surround joints. Strain, inflammation, and, in certain situations, the development of ailments like tendinitis, may all result from this.
- Increased risk of chronic diseases: Sedentary behavior and poor posture have been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which may indirectly influence bone and joint health.
- Less weight-bearing exercise: Sitting down for prolonged periods of time when working from home lowers the weight-bearing activity necessary to maintain bone density. Over time, weakened bones might result from a lack of weight-bearing activity.
- Muscle imbalances: Extended periods of sitting may make certain muscles weaker while making others tight and hyperactive. These muscular imbalances increase the risk of accidents and joint issues by affecting joint stability and mobility.
- Decreased joint lubrication: Prolonged sitting or standing may limit the flow of lubricating fluid through the joints, stiffening them and increasing their susceptibility to discomfort and inflammation.
Steps for a safe work from home
“To do a safe Work from home that is unavoidable, one should lead an active lifestyle, do regular whole-body stretches and exercise under proper supervision for 45 minutes per day, build core strength of the muscles of the spine, avoid prolonged sitting for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, proper sitting posture at work that supports the curves of the back and neck, avoid using laptops in bed or on a couch because it is the worst possible posture for the entire back, work in standing positions, and more,”
Dr. Chanda proposes the following actions to lessen the detrimental impact of working from home on bone and joint health:
Take frequent breaks: Include brief periods of standing, stretching, and movement throughout the day.
Create an ergonomic workplace by making sure your desk is set up to support your back and joints, encourage excellent posture, and all of the above.
Perform Exercise: Include weight-bearing movements and stretches in your regular exercise routines to maintain the health of your bones and joints.
Maintain good posture: Be aware of your posture while working and adapt as necessary.
Think about getting a sit-stand desk so that you may alternate between sitting and standing while working.
Stay hydrated: Drink enough water to support joint lubrication.
You may lessen the possible detrimental effects of working from home on your bone and joint health by implementing these habits.
From an orthopedic standpoint, Dr. Chanda suggests the following additional factors to assist preserve bone and joint health:
Avoid too repetitive actions since they might put pressure on certain joints and cause overuse problems. Take pauses and switch up your routine to avoid putting repeated strain on your joints.
Before participating in physical activity, it is important to warm up your muscles and joints. This lowers the chance of damage by increasing blood flow and getting your body ready for the workout ahead.
Cross-train to engage multiple muscle groups and lower the risk of overusing certain joints by partaking in a range of workouts and physical activities.
Use joint-friendly activities: Choose low-impact exercises that are easy on the joints, such as swimming or cycling, if you have any current joint problems or concerns.
Observe your body: Pay attention to any indications of pain, stiffness, or instability in the joints. Seek immediate medical assistance if you develop swelling or discomfort that doesn’t go away.
Weight management: Keeping a healthy weight is essential for easing the strain on joints that support weight, such as the knees and hips.
Consult an orthopedic specialist: Ask a doctor who specializes in orthopedics for help if you have particular questions about your bones or joints. In accordance with your particular requirements, they may provide you individualized advice and treatment alternatives.
Remember that caring for your bones and joints proactively may greatly enhance your musculoskeletal health overall and help avoid future orthopedic problems.