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A stretch in time…

In this blog post, Divya Sivaramakrishnan from the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy at The University of Edinburgh tells us about the importance of taking breaks from the desk to move and stretch. Divya is part of a research team from the university’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre working on promoting more movement while working at home. As well as being a researcher, Divya is also a yoga teacher and has created two short yoga routines that you can try at home or in the office to break up that desk time. Remember, you can record your yoga sessions as Step Count Challenge activity.

Published: 30/10/2023

A woman with hair tied back is smiling at the camera and there is a lake and wooded hillside in the background

Today has been a day of back-to-back Teams calls. I have no complaints about the meetings (very useful and productive), but even after a couple of hours, I was exhausted, with a stiff neck and a sore back.

Being still for long periods of time is associated with several adverse health outcomes such as increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, musculoskeletal disorders, and poor mental health. Research studies show that workplace settings have high levels of sedentary behaviour, and office workers spend a substantial portion of their workday on their desks. Working at home has become popular since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, and recent evidence indicates that sedentary behaviour levels are elevated while homeworking.

Over the last two years, our team at the University of Edinburgh has been researching sedentary behaviour while working at home. We’ve identified the main reasons why movement is reduced in the home environment - loss of commute, no movement around the office to chat to a colleague, get lunch or coffee, blurring of the lines between work and personal time leading to longer work hours, and of course, back-to-back online meetings. We have developed a toolkit to support moving more while working at home, with several useful tips and strategies (check it out here).

As a yoga teacher, I would like to highlight one of these strategies - a stretch break. From both anecdotal and research evidence, yoga has numerous benefits including improved flexibility, balance, and strength. Yoga has also been found to improve neck and back pain. The alignment of movement with breathing helps improve focus and concentration, reduce stress, and boost mood and energy levels. Yoga is quite versatile and can be light and gentle or quite intense, it can be modified to suit your physical needs, and leveraged to help you achieve your objectives (physical, mental, therapeutic, spiritual). It can complement activities such as running, sports, and participating in the Step Count Challenge, and can fit into your daily routine either as short breaks, or a nice long session.

I have developed two videos that will help you take a yoga break, and you can do these simple moves in the office as well as between (or even during) online meetings at home. I hope you enjoy them - happy stretching!