This is the transcript of my chat with my personal trainer Ben Glasscock about staying healthy and pain-free as a designer at a desk.
Mark - Ben how can we stay pain-free Ben?
Ben - If we referred to specifically desk work it's always gonna be about movement whether it's sort of small or big, but consistent movement is what's gonna, achieve a pain-free body.
When you talk about desk work it's normally sitting down rounded over in that bad posture that we all see, sort of hunched shoulders. That's really hard to avoid, no human was meant to sit at a desk eight hours a day, bolt upright, it just doesn't happen. There are long working days how are you meant to stay in a good posture for the whole day.
The main thing in my mind would be sort of small movements, maybe a little mobility routine that you can take on your lunch break because nobody wants to sit there and do 20 minutes of stretching. A couple of minutes of movement when you get up, opening up the shoulders that kind of thing, opening up the ribcage because it's constantly compressed, maybe something for the hips, because a lot of people who end up getting really tight hips get knee pain, it can cause back issues, you'd be surprised that desk work can be really damaging to everything, posture, health, shoulders. Especially if you lift, if you exercise, if you're running.
You may be sitting leaning to one side, more often and that kind of stuff can just really promote injury so for me consistent movement is the big one.
Mark - I found that I had a few back problems, I think it started when I was sitting at my freelance job for 9 hours a day, I definitely feel like I should keep moving more...
Do you think that any sitting a desktop saps energy levels at all?
Ben - yeah, when you look constantly looking at a screen and you're in that poor posture, you're not really moving, you're not staying active. I think that really promotes fatigue, decreases your energy levels. Everyone knows that exercise is beneficial though it doesn't have to be all out exertion, little bits of exercise is always gonna help energy levels.
So whether you try and get that in through the day or if you just exercise before or after work then it's gonna help. That's the other thing about desk work you are getting more and more fatigued by looking at a computer screen but also lack of movement.
Mark - I know a lot of designers get strain in their eyes also wrists and fingers because it's just a mouse moving. The same body part thing just keeps it moving in the same way.
Ben - The old rsi, repetitive strain injury, just being aware, if you keep your hand on the mouse the whole day then no wonder that one ends up stronger then the other, or if it gets used more and then causes those injuries and issues, so that's that's an awareness thing as well, but you can't just stretch that out you've got to you've got to be aware of what your hand is doing throughout the day, don't have it constantly on the mouse, move it around make sure your fingers are moving and going through a full range of motion.
Mark - so drinks at work, I've just seen you drinking a monster energy drink, so what would you recommend?
Ben - yeah there's caffeine in it and that is a sort of a diuretic, it is a dehydrating substance, so just being wary of that kind of thing. I'd make time to get in around four to six liters of water. So as long as you're hydrated enough alongside the caffeine, you should be fine.
Desk workers you know they smash cups of tea and coffee all day and they never have any water and they wonder why they get that afternoon crash that, sort of afternoon slump and I think that's a big part of it. Everyone knows about eating healthy but if you don't if you eat really healthy, and then you are not staying hydrated and you're drinking the wrong stuff, you will get caffeine crashes.
You then build up a huge tolerance to the caffeine and that will heighten the effects of everything else you're doing, then you get home you're too fatigued to do anything, you don't make time for the mobility, you don't make time for exercise, you sit down in front of your computer again or your TV and then you wonder why you're in pain. Do drinks are a huge part of it!
My opinion is to have a 2-liter bottle on your desk because then it will promote you to drink it. If you don't have the access to the water you sort of just end up not drinking it. I think to have the 2-liter on the desk, maybe making a mark on it saying finish this by midday, you might have to go to go to the toilet a bit more but it's worth it. That's moving around as well. If you have to go to the toilet, that's getting away from the screen and moving.
Mark - I went the opticians a few months ago and they said a lot of designers do get repetitive strain injury in their eyes and sore eyes. They said, just get away from the screen every hour and you'll be absolutely fine, just for five minutes every hour not looking at a screen at all.
Ben - I love when people say 'I don't have time to do that' maybe they won't be working when their eyes are all strained, it's just a couple of minutes out of the day to just do something that will benefit you, it's not difficult. What is difficult is telling someone to do two hours of exercise a day because that's a big lifestyle change, but telling someone to have a bottle of water next to a desk is not difficult.
It doesn't have to be a hardcore amount of exercise each day, maybe something you enjoy, like football or a sport. Even just a simple matt mobility routine will go a long way.
Thanks very much to ben for taking the time to be in the video and answering my questions. You can chat to ben about all things fitness and mobility here:
Also read his blog here:
Thanks for reading, I hope this article helps :)