Taking the right steps

Warming up properly before exercise
Warming up properly before exercise

Millions of people across the UK have physically demanding or repetitive jobs. If you’re one of them, you can improve your health while doing your active or manual work and reduce your risk of injury.

What we do to earn a living can have a positive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. The idea that manual handling or repetitive movement is “bad for you” is a myth. But it is true that active work, if approached incorrectly, can sometimes contribute to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as lower back pain, joint injuries, muscular aches and strains and arm pain.

If your job involves a regular amount of activity like bending, lifting, stretching and pushing, the good news is that it affords you an excellent chance to take charge of your physical health. Frequent physical activity improves your overall health and fitness and will help you get the most from work and your life in general.

Just doing your job can help you meet the recommended target for exercise. Physiotherapists suggest you take 30 minutes of physical activity on at least five days each week. Exercise can be broken down to 10 or 15 minute chunks, if this suits you better. Simply make sure you do the following.

Warm up a little, to prepare your body for heavy or repetitive work. You should aim to do this at the beginning of the day and after rest periods.

Use good technique. Request tailored training for the tasks you do and follow the advice you’re given. Use any tools provided to help you do your job correctly. Think about top athletes. If a tennis player held her racquet wrongly or a golfer didn’t swing his club properly, they would soon develop aches and pains.

Rotate repetitive activities and remember to take your rest periods or have ‘micro breaks’ regularly. Consider seeking advice from a physio about specific exercises that will help you develop the strength you need to do your job safely and most effectively. Adopt neutral work postures as much as possible – stand upright, maintain the natural curves of your back, keep your arms close to your body and your feet hip distance apart. Strengthen your muscles and improve your fitness so you can manage the demands of your job more easily.

Follow your employer’s health and safety procedures – they are there for a good reason. Eat well and drink enough fluids. Report any symptoms to your employer

Active employment can also benefit your mental wellbeing. Being physically active causes your body to release chemicals which help lift your mood and encourage you to feel more relaxed. These simple suggestions can help keep your stress levels in check.

Breathe properly. If you feel stressed or anxious, try taking a few deep breaths. You’ll feel calmer and more in control. Look for the positives in and around your working environment. Get outside and enjoy some fresh air during breaks. If you work outdoors, enjoy a change of scene. Try to keep challenging situations in perspective. Learn to celebrate your success rather than give yourself a hard time about what you haven’t achieved

Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. If you’re not doing shift work, aim to go to bed and get up at the same time on most days. Use your holiday allowance. It will help you unwind and recharge.

What you can do

There is much you can do to look after yourself in the course of your active work.

Physiotherapists recommend you think carefully about the movements your job requires you to carry out regularly.

Movements you should look to avoid include: Awkward or uncomfortable positions (e.g. working with arms away from your body, or with your back bent and twisted); using too much force; placing too much strain on one side of your body - you can achieve this through developing better working postures.

Remember, employers have legal obligations to provide safe and healthy workplaces for active workers.

Physiotherapists are experts in rehabilitation, helping people return to their normal activities after illness and injury. If you’re suffering from health problems that seem to be aggravated at work, physios can help! We will work with you to create a plan to help you get fit and healthy. This includes tackling risk factors in your job and general lifestyle that may be causing or contributing to problems with your health. Why not book in for a full body MOT? Call our reception team on 01706 819464.