Why Does My Body Feel So Old?
Mitchell Starkman, Physiotherapist, The Movement Centre
14 October 2017
Working in a modern office can be hazardous to your health. And we’re not talking about the quality of the “coffee” or how Mo from the mail room keeps trying to tackle you in the lunchroom.
You’re a desk jockey now. And let’s face it, being a desk jockey is a dangerous sport. In fact, some may argue that being a desk jockey is one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
So what is a desk jockey and why is it so dangerous:
- A desk jockey is an office worker who keeps physically active a couple of times a week – at the gym, going for a run, or playing rec league sports with their buddies.
- It’s a lifestyle change that takes us from being active, with frequent breaks, as high school students or undergraduates to working in an office. And these changes affect our bodies capacity to perform physical activity.
- Desk jockeys often try to take part in the sports and activities they used to play and participate in at the same level they used to, without the same level of preparation.
- This lack of preparation and change of lifestyle is what ultimately can lead to increasing pain as we age.
- Getting older doesn’t mean we have to become less mobile, or suffer from more pain or stiffness.
You have developed new skills as a desk jockey. A desk jockey is someone who plays hard all day long in their office chair. Their fingers are finely tuned to keyboarding, their eyes agile and swift while tracking spreadsheets. Desk jockeys can even navigate lengthy word documents and email all with their body perfectly formed to their chair.
So why is this a problem? This takes us back to the question we asked at the beginning – “Why does my body feel so old?” which is related to “Why do I seem to get hurt more as I get older?”, “Why am I not as fast as I used to be?”, and “Is it normal to lose flexibility and get stiff?”.
Before I answer those questions let’s get one thing straight, there are natural physiological aspects of an aging body that play a role here. We can refer to this as normal wear and tear on the body. For the most part, these are things we can’t change. But we can make changes in our lifestyle choices and nutritional habits that can alleviate these issues.
“What we are talking about here is the transition to becoming a desk jockey.”
Here is the problem. Many of us were very active in high school and as undergraduate students. Even though it might not have been on purpose, we took frequent movement breaks within our day. When time was less stressed, and we had no kids, partners or other responsibilities to get in the way, the gym, recreational sports, and long walks all seemed like reasonable things.
Then, somewhere along the way you got a house, maybe found a partner, got a dog, had a child and gave up a whole lot of our free time!
We got a job, a great job, were given the best ergonomic set-up in the world and told to sit there, and stay put until all our work was done. Does that sound familiar? Well it should, this is the reality of the modern day office place.
And then we want to go out and play as if none of that matters. In essence, desk jockeys ask their bodies to perform for them in sport, fitness or activity like “they’ve always done”, but are often no longer primed to do so. The constant struggle to find time to go to a physio appointment or get to the gym often feels like a losing battle. That movement nutrition that their old lifestyle used to include has been stolen by the dreaded office chair and life.
Now, let’s take a second and remember ourselves as six year olds told by Mrs. Smith to sit in the corner because we were talking too much. Remember how horrid this was. “You want me to SIT, in the CORNER? Are you crazy m’am? How will I survive?” Being told to sit in the corner and not move was a punishment, now it’s fills up people’s day! We have a problem here.
Let’s use a real life example to put things in perspective. Let’s talk about Jim, a varsity hockey player during university. His week revolved around four sessions of on-ice and three sessions of off-ice training. He was constantly on the move between class, practice, and social activities. And he still had free time. He felt great!
Now, let’s fast forward five years after graduation. Jim is now a married accountant with a 1 year old. His days consists of a 1 hour commute to and from work on public transit, a 9 hour work day (if he’s lucky) sitting in front of his computer, followed by a night of unwinding with his wife and 1 year old while watching Netflix for maybe a couple of hours. Now, I’m not a math major but that’s about twelve or thirteen hours of sitting every day. What I forgot to mention was that Jim still plays hockey every Tuesday night like he’s trying to break into the NHL.
If you can’t tell already this is a recipe for disaster.
Jim now needs treatment for his knee and lower back pain. He can’t for the life of him understand how and why he can’t play the way he used too? Can you?
Now let me ask you, is that because he’s older (maybe?), or because of lifestyle changes.
The moral of the story is that our office setup and lifestyle changes affect our bodies ability to perform. Time is short so we want a solution that is quick and efficient. Start by fitting more activity into your work day, like taking the stairs. Modify your chair and desk space to better suit you (see our ultimate guide to ergonomics). Both of these changes will involve little or no additional time commitment on your end!
If you have an injury or are looking to prevent them it’s always a good idea to check in with a healthcare practitioner you trust. For those of you living this busy lifestyle where finding the time for appointments is not an option, using an online physio tool like PhysioReady (your physiotherapy app), can save time by bringing your exercises along with you, wherever you go.
Let’s find your program.