Why are desk workers so tired?
Do you spend most of the day sitting down at your desk in front of the computer? Do you find yourself really tired by the end of the day? You may be wondering why you are so tired just from sitting.
Sitting pushes the ribcage into the abdomen/stomach. This limits expansion of diaphragm which sits at the base of the rib cage. Over time the lack of diaphragm movement stiffens the rib cage and we end up breathing only in the upper lungs. This is called shallow breathing. Shallow breathing leads to less oxygen around the body and fatigue over the course of the day.
The way you breathe can impact your whole body. The normal breathing rate for the average adult is 12-16 breaths per minute. For many of us who have busy schedules and spend most of the working day sitting at a desk, our breathing pattern becomes shallow. Over time, this weakens the strength of our respiratory muscles, including the diaphragm. Shallow breathing relies on your upper body muscles to do most of the work to allow you to breathe. This creates tension and tightness at the top of your shoulders, between your shoulder blades, and at the front of your chest. This can affect our posture throughout the day.
What causes shallow breathing?
Several factors can cause us to become shallow breathers. Chronic pain or stress can impair your breathing rate. Poor posture can impair our breathing pattern. Rounded shoulders and a forward head posture causes the muscles around the chest to tighten. This limits the ability of the ribcage to expand, causing you to take more rapid and shallow breaths. This shallow breathing pattern in combination with poor posture can affect the function of your upper body muscles. The tightness of the muscles in the front of the chest and top of the shoulders causes them to become overactive. This then inhibits and weakens the muscles in your back between your shoulder blades which help maintain an upright posture.
Practicing deep breathing can help reinforce proper body mechanics to help reduce muscle tension. It also has multiple other health benefits such as reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. Deep breathing involves inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, to allow your lungs to fill with air. You should feel your abdomen expand as you breathe in. The diaphragm is the primary muscle that allows you to inhale. It is located inside the lower ribs at the base of your chest. As you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts to create space for your lungs to expand in the chest cavity. We also have muscle between each of our ribs, called the intercostals, which assists the diaphragm by elevating the rib cage to allow more air into the lungs.
A steady breathing pattern enhances core stability and improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
How to practice deep breathing:
- Take a deep breath in, count to four, then release a deep breath out to the same count
- Place your palm against your stomach. You should feel your stomach expand outwards against your hand as you breathe in
- Avoid elevating your shoulders as you breathe as this promotes a shallow breathing pattern
Tips for reducing fatigue at the end of the day
- Get up every hour and move around. You can either go for a short walk up and down the office or hallway, or even just stand for a minute or so. As long as you are breaking up the long periods of sitting!
- Set time through the day to practice deep breathing. Perhaps every time you get up from sitting, do 3 deep breaths.
- Stretch your hands above your head. This helps to stretch the rib cage.
- Stomp your feet. This helps stimulate lymphatic movement and increases circulation around the body
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