Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 21, 2023

Office Breaks: How Regular Movement Can Save Your Back and Joints

We all know we need to take breaks. But do we know why it’s nice to take a step back from work? Other than the fact you can take a little breather from working.

Well, it’s a good thing you can take the science back to your boss to back up your need for regular breaks. Computer use can cause a bunch of health-related issues, most of which can be avoided simply by taking a break and incorporating a little bit of movement into your routine.

In particular, sitting at your desk for extended periods can lead to issues with your neck, shoulders, and back. That’s scientifically proven; medical journals show this is an irrefutable fact. Your joints and muscles will also suffer over time.

Of course, there are also headaches, tired eyes, and lack of movement associated with serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Sitting has even been called the new smoking.

In short, office breaks are essential. Here’s how you can add movement to your routine to help save your back and joints.

Work Out in the Office

If you’re in one of the more modern offices out there, it may be possible to squeeze in a workout during your lunch break. If you have a gym there, even better. No gym? No problem. Here are some exercises you can incorporate into your everyday working life, without breaking into a ridiculous sweat:

Pilates Breaststroke

This exercise also forms part of a full routine to improve your back, and it’s pretty easy to do; it takes just 50 seconds. First, face down on the ground. Next, stretch those arms towards the front, moving them down towards your thighs, breaststroke style. Always keep your lower back arched when doing this exercise.

Take the Stairs

It’s simple but super effective. For every step you climb, you’ll burn 0.1 calories. Doesn’t sound like much, right? But if you work out the numbers, it’s more intense than a standard jog. Improving your overall cardiovascular health will also feed into your back and joints.


No matter how many cool and trendy workouts are introduced on YouTube and TikTok, you can’t get away from the fundamentals. That’s because they work. Push-ups are a basic exercise everyone should try and do. If you’re a beginner or are perhaps a little bit older, use support or go on your knees.

Go for a Walk

Most people just stay in the office during their lunch hour. But it’s a better idea to completely step away and take a full break from your work. If there’s a park with a bit of nature, even better. There’s plenty of evidence that this leads to an improved mood and a boost in concentration and energy when you get back to work.

Cat Stretch

Probably our favorite back-specific exercise. Start in a kneeled position. Then, arch your back very slowly, bringing your head down; think of a rope pulling your belly upwards. Bring your head up slowly, letting your back go towards its starting position. Do this 3-5x every day.

Focus on Improving Your Posture

No matter how much you try to move during your working day, the fact is that you’ll still spend most of your time sitting down. It’s a fact of modern office life, unfortunately.

This habit of sitting for long periods tends to lead to worse posture for most people, which is linked with chronic back, neck, and back pain. Not only that, you may see your blood pressure rise and your hormone levels change. Yes, it’s that serious.

Improving your posture, therefore, should become an integral part of your routine. But don’t worry, there are still some regular movements you can do, even when stuck in a desk chair most of the day:

  • Replace your regular chair with a ‘balance ball chair’. Google it, it’s a thing! Instead of sitting back and becoming a vegetable, your body has to do the work to keep stable, improving your posture.
  • Upper back extension. Improve thoracic mobility with an upper back extension. First, sit tall and a little bit forward on your desk chair. Put your hands at the back of the neck, then slowly raise your head towards a view of the ceiling by moving your elbows up. Repeat 10x.   
  • Bruegger Exercise. Named after the Swiss neurologist and his concept, this exercise can’t get much easier. Relax your arms to your side, then rotate them so that your thumbs point in the opposite direction. With your chin tucked in, squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat 3-5x.

More Breaks, Less Illness

Companies often don’t like people taking breaks, because they think it cuts into worker productivity. However, research from Denmark based on over 70,000 workers shows that short breaks that include some form of micro-exercise lead to fewer days missed due to illness or other health-related issues.

Specifically, micro-exercises at the office (vs. ‘regular’ exercise at home) show improved results when it comes to muscular strength, and overall musculoskeletal pain, in addition to improvement in psychological aspects.

That’s why you must add exercise during your working day, rather than bunching up your movement into a single gym session after you leave the office. It’s just like the idea behind why you can’t catch up on sleep during the weekend; you need to add consistency to make it work!

Add Movement to Everything You Do

Our final piece of advice: the easiest way to add movement to your life is by doing it by the mantra little and often. It’s pain-free and just moves with your regular activity, rather than a gym-specific session that you may not keep up with.

We’ve given you a bunch of ideas already, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But think of more; walking to a restroom that’s a little further away, suggesting a ‘walk and talk’ instead of a meeting in a conference room, and eating your lunch in the great outdoors.

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