Your company offers a workplace wellness program.
You figure it only makes sense for more flexible people, for the younger employees, and for people who don’t have that much work to get done. What could it do for someone with a limited range of motion, low endurance, and lack of time?
Maybe, just maybe, you get convinced somehow. Your stress gets too high, your energy gets too low, and you see the effects the classes are having on your colleagues.
So you go to some classes, you start chatting up with people who you’ve never met before. IT guys are talking to sales guys. People who you’ve never seen taking the stairs are now squatting with weights in their hands! People who used to come in twenty minutes late are coming into work a half hour early so that they don’t feel guilty in case they come back a little late from lunch. There’s higher engagement, higher morale, and a higher likelihood for you to stay if hell breaks loose at 4:43 pm.
It’s a fun reprieve from work and is certainly different than how you usually spend lunch (browsing through YouTube, Twitter, or your emails). Instead, your lunches are now filled with kicking through the air and laughing about next week’s new “super crazy cycling combo”.
For a few months…
The classes you’re attending are fun but they’re not effective for your circumstance.
They don’t have any effect on how you deal with stressful situations on a daily basis, they don’t relieve your back, shoulder, or neck pain, and, they may even be having a negative impact on these things.
Here’s why the workplace wellness program won’t work for you:
It’s not tailor-made for your specific needs.
Needs such as relieving chronic pain, dealing with stress, and even the ability to communicate with people without losing your temper.
The classes that are offered at work, at the gym, or at your community centre are often ways to:
- “Get you exercising!”
- “Get your blood pumping!”
- “Get you healthier!”
But those are very vague phrases that don’t offer specific solutions.
In fact, here’s the mind-blowing secret no one will ever tell you:
You know those personal trainers teaching you to wave around barbells, medicine balls, and make use of TRX systems? They teach you that because that’s what’s interesting for them to teach and that’s what they learned in school, not because it’s beneficial for you. UNLESS, you’ve found someone who can tell you why they’re using those exercises for your specific conditions.
Trainers were taught things like how to get people to lose weight, increase endurance and muscle mass, gain strength, and improve flexibility. They were not taught how to deal with mental health, chronic conditions, chronic pain, and exercise for injuries.
And that’s not their fault. That’s what they were taught.
So, no matter how much equipment your company buys, you won’t be able to improve your health concerns if you don’t do exercises specifically tailored for you.
Of course it’s difficult to convince your company (or rather the person or department responsible for compensation, benefits, or rewards) to find a health professional that knows how to solve every type of health problem ever. But you can convince them to find one who knows exactly how to solve work-related issues such as stress, mental health problems (like sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, etc.), fatigue, chronic pain (back, shoulders, neck, feet, knees, etc.), varicose veins, low energy, and eyesight degradation.
Let’s use the Office of the Town of Newmarket as an example:
Their staff get a large percentage off all of the programs that the town has to offer and they could choose from classes such as Restorative Yoga, Muscle Sculpt, Cardio Kickboxing, and so much more.
Those seem great from an outsider’s perspective, maybe even fun, but they are ultimately ineffective at battling the major problems so many people face as a result of sitting at a desk and staring at a screen for 8+ hours.
The staff had known that and that’s why they were willing to pay for a program that was x4 more expensive for each individual person than what they could pay with their discount because it had a higher ROH (return on health), and subsequently, ROI.
You’ve probably seen or even attended similar classes so let’s go through why each of these would be ineffective for you:
Don’t even get me started on how wrong this is for anyone who’s stressed out.
Let’s use an example you’d probably be familiar with:
Your child has just had a day of fun with their friends, they’ve eaten pizza, chips, and cake, and guzzled down 3 cups of pop. Then, you even let their friends stay over for a movie. Eventually, their friends go home, it’s an hour past your child’s bedtime and they won’t go to sleep.
Because they are over-excited.
That is you after a day at the office. Only you’ve guzzled down 3 cups of coffee, not pop. And you dealt with poor experiences of screaming colleagues, rather than exciting experiences of screaming friends. And you had to deal with screw ups from so many departments, and deadlines, and emails, and a very questionable donut in one of your meetings.
So you’re not going to calm down by lying down on the floor and focus on your breath. It will only agitate you more, get you thinking more about your workplace problems, as well as your chronic pain.
And for the people who tell you it works – they probably weren’t too stressed out to begin with.
Biggest Con: It leaves you in a more agitated state than before you entered the class
Ah, the infamous muscle sculpt. With the power of low-weight barbells, it creates the illusion that you are “sculpting” your muscles. When in fact, you’re losing both muscle and fat.
More cardio than anything else, the class will leave you feeling sweaty, tired, and if you do it for long enough, you’ll have higher endurance to do that type of class for a longer period of time.
Yes, it’ll get your heart rate up, but that’s probably not your top priority when it comes to your health.
Biggest Con: May result in past injuries flaring up
Hands down, this is one of the most challenging classes. And fun! But again, depending on the instructor, you could be losing both muscle and fat. If you’re lucky, your instructor will add strength training into the mix.
Biggest Con: Risk of muscle and joint injury
So while these classes all encourage a healthy and active lifestyle, they simply do not solve a range of more dangerous problems.
To help solve those problems, let’s look at 5 massages you can do right at your desk that will start helping you immediately. They will also help any of your friends or colleagues who work in office environments. So if you share this with them, they’ll be thanking you later (even though they may not admit that they have major aches in their neck, shoulders, lower back, and more).
- Using the fingers of your right hand and the base of your palm, squeeze the back of your opposite shoulder. You can support your right elbow with the opposite hand. Repeat this squeezing, moving your hand from the outer part of your upper back towards the spine without touching the actual spine. Change sides.
This massage provides relief for tension headache, pain in the neck and shoulders, and even helps with pain in the jaw.
- Move your right hand down along your neck. Try to reach downward as far as possible towards your mid-back. From this point start moving up, using your fingers and the base of your palm. Squeeze the muscles on both sides of your spine, making sure to avoid squeezing the spine itself. Keep scaling your hand upward until you reach the base of your skull.
Switch hands and repeat the same massage technique.
Massaging your neck in this way helps to release pressure right at the origin of the trapezius muscle and will help you to get pleasant relief from your neck pain.
- With your right hand, reach to the back of your spine as low as it works for you and begin spiral movements along the side of the vertebral column, moving up towards the base of the skull. Repeat a few times, going deeper and deeper into the muscle as much as you can without it being painful.
- Gently tilt your head forward and find C7 vertebrae. Start pinching on both sides of the vertebrae with the base of the palm and fingertips. Make sure that you are not touching the spine itself. Walk your hand up in this pinching manner towards the occipital bone. If you find some spots that hurt more than others spend more time on them.
Repeat with the other hand.
- Tilt your head to the right. With your right hand reach to the back of the left shoulder. Using index, middle, and ring fingers start pressing on the meaty part of the shoulder.
Look for painful areas.
When you find some of those areas, spend more time pressing on them. Make sure you work only on the shoulder level without going up the side of the neck.
This tactic helps to stretch tight muscles on the side of the neck, relieving neck pain and partial headache that could be a side effect of these tight muscles.
So, if you do this over the period of a week and see an improvement, share your success story with us, with a coworker, or with a friend going through similar problems. Chances are, if they sit in at a desk for the whole day, they’ve been experiencing similar chronic pain just like you.