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The physical effect of working from home

A blog post written by Myklebust, A., Sørland, H., Thorshaug Skapalen, J., Boogaart, M & Heijmans, N. – A student cooperation from HAN (Netherlands) and HVL (Norway)

The corona virus has affected the daily lives of people all over the world. Many jobs have been lost, we meet less often in person and we spend much more time at home. By doing most things from home, a lot of us miss out on our usual daily activity. By no longer walking to work and school, and spending most of the hours of the day, in the comfort of our own homes, there is a great risk our physical functional health will decline.

There are some noticeable changes some of us might have experienced, when less active; like weight gain, fatigue and aches here and there. But what happens inside our bodies when we stop moving, or move considerably less, in our day to day lives?

Complications of a non-ergonomic workplace

Because of COVID-19 restrictions some people are forced to work from home. Those people often haven’t got access to an ergonomic place to work such as they have at their work. For example, your pc-monitor is smaller and not adjustable, your desk isn’t adjustable, and your non ergonomically (desk)chair is not suited for hours of working. This causes your shoulders to raise, your upper back to curve and your head is not positioned above your spine court. This position can cause muscle tension in that area and give pressure on the spine and joints.

What happens when this goes on for too long, and what can you do about it?

When tension in the muscle occurs, and the goal is to maintain the body position, we speak of isometric muscle contraction. When there is tension in the muscles in an isometric way, the problem is that the blood flow into the muscles is not optimal. In this static position, your body asks little of the cardiovascular system. For example, a muscle in rest has about 20% oxygen extraction while a muscle in use can extract oxygen up to 80-90%. Also if the muscles are used alternately concentric and eccentric with rhythmic contractions, this creates a pulsating blood flow. This will not happen when the muscle is kept in position. The reason why movement is such a good thing for your body! [1]

When the muscle is kept in this state with less oxygen (anaerobic), the muscle keeps building up lactic acid and H+ molecules as a product that causes muscle acidification. If only the agonist is constantly tensioned, the antagonist and other immobilized muscles will eventually show muscle fiber breakdown at a rapid pace. But also the agonist will show signs of muscle fiber breakdown and an adjustment of the muscle length occurs. The unused muscle fibers are simply seen by the body as no longer necessary.[3]

The body repositions the muscle fibers and the associated connective tissue structures in response to the demand for labor. Ultimately, this will ensure that your body adapts to the unnatural posture that is often assumed, with the result that you can experience complaints around these muscles in daily life.

Adjusting the body to this new posture also increases pressure on the vertebrae and joints. This can lead to fatigue, pain, tightness of the nerves, wear and deformities.[2]

A vicious circle can develop as a result of the above complaints. The complaints can cause people to assume a uncomfartable/awkward sitting posture again, so that complaints will worsen.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Inactivity and relating Cardiovascular & Muscular complications

When you decide to get fit and thus starting exercises, your body adapts after each workout to become better. Your body does this by building for example muscle with amino acids. Your muscles can either be in a hypertrophy (protein synthesis is higher than degradation) or atrophy (higher degradation than synthesis) state. The body builds your muscles for specific physical activity. A body builder will have large muscles which can move a lot of weight, whereas those engaged in endurance activity develop more of the proteins needed to combat muscle fatigue [4]. Inactivity and failing to recruit your muscles on a regular basis will lead to degradation of the muscle tissues: muscle atrophy. This means loss of muscle tissue due to inactivity over a long period of time. The body breaks down the muscle tissue that does not get any use to conserve energy. On the other side, this type of atrophy can often be reversed by exercise and better nutrition, and it is therefore important to take breaks to move your body and use your muscles.

Training enhances the capacity of the heart, lungs and blood to deliver oxygen to the body cells and to remove waste from the cells. By training your endurance your maximum VO2 max increase thus giving your body more oxygen. Besides this a few other things occur [4]:

– Increases cardiac output and oxygen delivery

– Increase blood volume per heart beat

– Slows resting pulse rate

– Increases oxygen usage

– Reduces blood pressure

In a study seven endurance subjects were followed and had their VO2 max measured after 12, 21,56 and 84 days after cessation of training. Their max vo2 declined by 7% during the first 21 days and after 56 days by 16% [5].

In order to prevent posture complaints and your muscles and cardiovascular system from degrading we recommend you consider any or all of the advice below. If there is no possibility of another workplace, we recommend the following to prevent these complaints:

1. Try to mobilize your muscles (especially neck, shoulders, back) as much as possible before, during and after work. This ensures the supply of energy to the muscles and the removal of waste products.

2. Do not sit in the same position for too long. Switch at least every 20 minutes even if it’s just getting a cup of coffee, get up to move around and at the same time do some stretching exercises for the affected area.

3. While training your body, try to focus on the opposing muscles instead of the ones you currently have tension in, this creates a balance of the musculoskeletal system.

4. Make sure your workplace is not in the same room where you eat and drink your food. If you have the option, sit on a different floor so that you can use the stairs as a training tool. Go out for a walk during lunchtime.

5. Try to be active when you get the opportunity, skip the car as much as possible, for instance when going for grocery shopping and have a stroll through a nearby park, having some physical activity already impacts your body majorly.

Stay save and remember: some activity is better than none!


[1] Burgt, M. van der, Burgerhout, W., Alessie, J., Houwink, A., (2017) Fysiologie, Bloedsomloop(p 190-191) 8th edition Houten, Netherlands

[2] Ranasinghe, P., Perera, Y.S., Lamabadusuriya, D.A. et al., (2011), Work-related complaints of arm, neck and shoulder among computer office workers in an Asian country: prevalence and validation of a risk-factor questionnaire. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 12, art.68

[3] Moree, J.J. de, (2008) Dynamiek van het menselijk bindweefsel, Bindweefsel van de spieren(p 187) 5th edition, Houten, Netherlands

[4] Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. (2016). Understanding Nutrition. Fitness: physical activity, Nutrients, and body adaptations(p. 446). Stamford: Cengage learning.

[5] Coyle EF, Martin WH 3rd, Sinacore DR, Joyner MJ, Hagberg JM, Holloszy JO. Time course of loss of adaptations after stopping prolonged intense endurance training. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol. 1984 Dec;57(6):1857-64. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1984.57.6.1857. PMID: 6511559

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30-day challenge #13

Check out WHO guidelines and wash your hands before and after exercising

Beweeginspiratie blog Exercise Inspiration videos

30-day challenge #11

Check out WHO guidelines and wash your hands before and after exercising.

Beweeginspiratie blog Exercise Inspiration videos

30-day challenge #12

Check out WHO guidelines and wash your hands before and after exercising.

Beweeginspiratie blog Exercise Inspiration videos

30-day challenge #9

Day nine of the 30-day challenge (by Adam Meakins). Check out WHO guidelines and wash your hands before and after exercising.

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‘You can’t go wrong getting isolation strong’

By Adam Meakins, a Specialist Physiotherapist, as well as a qualified Strength & Conditioning Specialist in both the NHS and private practice in England. Also known as ‘The Sports Physio’.

The COVID19 virus is currently sweeping across the globe and battering the hell out of the human population. Some unfortunately become severely ill and die, some are left with long term disability, and some have other diseases go untreated.

Thankfully, most have not been severely affected by COVID19 with either a mild fever for a few days or no symptoms at all. However, despite the difference in symptoms there is no doubt this virus has affected us all in other ways forcing us to drastically change our way of living now and for the foreseeable future.

Social distancing and lockdown measures across the world mean many of us have been forced to spend extended periods in our homes unable to travel, move around, or go about our business as normal. Extended periods of time under social distancing and isolation measures has the potential to increase sedentary behaviours and risks creating further health and disability issues in our population. [1]

Maintaining levels of physical activity can be a challenge at the best of times, but even harder when unable to access facilities or equipment, especially when it comes to engaging with resistance exercise. The WHO recommends that all adults get a minimum of two sessions of resistance exercise a week [2]. This, however, is often overlooked or forgotten due to the more widely known target of 150 minutes of physical activity a week.[3]

One of my long-term goals has been, and continues to be, to promote the physiological and psychological benefits of resistance exercise with my slogan “you can’t go wrong getting strong”. At the start of the lockdown in the UK I began a ’30 Day Home Workout Challenge’ on social media posting daily videos of my own workouts done in my office/spare room.

‘You can’t go wrong getting isolation strong’

The idea was to demonstrate that simple, effective, no nonsense resistance exercise can be done in a limited space and with minimal equipment. These videos show a daily circuit of exercises that lasted about 20-30 minutes. The exercises were programmed through the challenge to equally work the upper and lower body, and focused mostly on simple push, pull, or lift movements, with some occasional light hearted fluff thrown in such as doing regular bicep curls, coz you know… curlz getz the girlz!

The dosage parameters of each session were also kept clear, simple and evidenced based, usually involving between 3-5 sets, with each exercise done to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) level of between 8-10. My reasons for choosing RPE levels for resistance exercise is in a continued effort to get more to move away from using fixed rep ranges when prescribing or doing resistance exercise. I often find fixed rep ranges don’t allow for individual variation and often lead to under or overdosing, whereas RPE levels can simply and easily be used by all.

The idea for this 30-day challenge, and others I have done in the past is to help promote the idea that regular resistance exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or only done in gyms, with lots gadgets and gimmicks. Instead resistance exercise can be highly effective if it’s simply done regularly and is challenging and effortful.


[1] Chen, P et al (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): The need to maintain regular physical activity while taking precautions. Journal of Sport and Health Science. Vol 9, 2, 103-104

[2] World Health Organisation (2010) Global recommendations on physical activity for health ISBN: 9789241599979

[3] Lowe, A et al (2017). Are physiotherapists walking the walk? A global survey of physiotherapists physical activity levels. Poster Presentation at The World Congress of Physical Therapy, Cape Town, July 2 2017. Sheffield Hallam University Archive,


Breathing Exercises

Staying healthy involves things like eating properly and staying active. At times like these it is even more important. By sticking to social distancing and quarantining at home, it is the perfect opportunity to focus on our physical activity and nutrition.

During these times, it is also important to keep our respiratory system, and more specifically, good lung function in mind. Covid-19 is a virus that can affect the respiratory system in even its mild and moderate forms. When speaking of the respiratory system, it is concerned with breathing and the lungs are the organs that enable this.

A group of breathing exercises largely adopted by physiotherapists worldwide are The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques (ACBTs). These breathing exercises target the lungs and aim to maintain good and functional breathing capacity. This technique consists of three phases:

[throughout the exercises, it is recommended to position oneself in sitting maintaining a good posture by keeping shoulders relaxed and the neck supported]. 

1.  Breathing Control

Breathing control helps to relax the airways which is useful for bouts of coughing or episodes of shortness of breath. This phase is best performed with the eyes closed to aid in a sensation of relaxation. This phase alone is useful to be carried out in states of fear, anxiety, and even during a panic attack. It also serves as a precursor to the following two stages if done within the cycle. 

To perform this stage, the person should breath in through the nose and out of the mouth, if possible. If not, both through the mouth instead. Any tension in the body should try to be relaxed with each breath out focussing on head and shoulder placement. This phase is to be repeated at least 6 times, gradually trying to control the breathing rate with each repetition. It can be done as many times as the person feels they need to move onto the next step.

2.  Deep Breathing 

During this phase, focus on breathing deeply. As per the previous step, the shoulders and chest should be relaxed. A long, slow, and deep breath inwards through the nose (if possible) should be taken). The breath should then be held for 2-3 seconds before breathing out through the mouth. The breath should not be forced out. It should be gentle, like a sigh. 

3.  Forced Expiration

For this step, it is advised to keep a tissue nearby in case the need to cough arises. As per WHO guidelines, the cough should be directed into the tissue and immediately disposed of. This portion of the exercise aims to clear the airways. It is called a huff and involves exhaling with a certain force through an open mouth. When performing this step, it helps to imagine steaming up a mirror. To complete this phase of the cycle, a normal-sized breath should be taken to then be followed by an active, long, breath out. The sensation of the lungs should feel ‘empty’. This is to be repeated twice. 

This cycle needs to be repeated for three times every time, twice daily. If symptoms develop such as shortness of breath you may perform them up to 4 times a day or as directed by a physiotherapist. The exercises can be performed by people of all ages. Should any symptoms arise of any concern, please do contact your local GP or your local Covid19 helpline.


Active Cycle of Breathing Technique. (2020, April 7). Physiopedia, . Retrieved April 10, 2020 from

Bronchiectasis Toolbox. (2018, June 18). The active cycle of breathing technique. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from

WHO. (n.d.). Advice for public. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from

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Training Motivation: How to Stay Focused in The Face of COVID-19

Article by Dr. Jane Walsh, Health Psychologist NUI Galway.

In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, we have witnessed the temporary annihilation of the global sporting events calendar. Not only have many of our target races or competitions been cancelled, we have suffered the loss of most of our social training activities and a general disruption to our normal routines.

Along with the stress many face around their health and that of their loved ones, and the mastering of new health behaviours (e.g. social distancing, increased self-hygiene), many of us have been dealt a significant blow to our motivation to train. This is further compounded by the uncertainty of the timeline, due to the unpredictability of the course of the pandemic.

So, you had a goal, and now it’s either decimated, or uncertain. What is the best approach to deal with this curveball? Here are 5 top tips from the scientific study of psychology to help us to regain our motivation.

Embrace the challenge.

In the same way as you would grit your teeth having to cycle up a steep hill, or dig in for a long run, consider this a novel challenge to both mind and body. Analyse the complexities of what it entails and begin the process of adaptation to the new circumstances. Why should you do this? Take time to consider your underlying motivation.

Reflect on your motivation(s).

Many of us have journeyed into this life of training/preparing for races for reasons that are usually based on personal goals, e.g to lose weight, get fit, get a new PB. These are what drive the ‘initiation phase’ and require disciplined focus in order to successfully change our daily routines and develop new habits.

Over time, our goals and motivations change. This is natural, as we improve and settle into routines. Reflecting on these and setting new goals regularly is important to maintain motivation and interest. However, when a change in personal circumstances arise (e.g. travel or other life events) ‘self-regulation’ becomes key to maintaining our goal focus.


Self-regulation involves controlling one’s behavior and emotions in the pursuit of long-term goals. This is not just about self-control, it also involves setting goals, initiating and maintaining good habits, even in the face of a dynamic and changing environment. Key to success is the development of a flexible and adaptive mindset. This means developing an ability to adapt your goals, attitude and behavior in response to the challenges life throws at you.


So, your original goal is gone or uncertain, what’s next? Set a new one! Take some time to consider where you like to go next. View this as an excuse, an opportunity to go down a different path. With the uncertainty of the course of Covid 19, it would be particularly useful to set some shorter, medium, and longer-term goals that are flexible.

Some people will prefer to continue their normal training routine as much as possible, unperturbed by the uncertainty, viewing it as a lifestyle. For others, it may be a golden opportunity to relax a little, take the foot off the gas, and do something different for a while. This pandemic provides a unique chance to reflect, revisit and reboot. Use it!

Enjoy the process

The most important part of all of this is personal enjoyment. Whether it’s a love of the outdoors, the fun of social training (if allowed), the sense of accomplishment after a hard session, or the adrenaline rush of a race, it doesn’t matter. Let’s face it, our goals are a trick to help us drag ourselves out of bed when we would rather sleep in, to push ourselves outdoors when the weather is dreadful. At the very heart of what we do is an activity that contributes enormously to our quality of life. So, hold onto that thought during these difficult times, stay healthy and never forget how lucky we are to be able to do it!

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”   

Muhammed Ali
About the Author 

Dr. Jane Walsh a keen triathlete is a lecturer in Health Psychology in NUI Galway, her research is underpinned by the theme ‘Health Behaviour for Healthy Ageing’.  She is the Director of the mHealth Research Group and recently secured grants in excess of €8 million euro in EU funding to conduct research on how novel technologies can be harnessed to deliver personalised evidence-based interventions to promote healthy ageing. Jane is the Co-Leader of the Health and Wellbeing Cluster in the Whitaker Institute, a member of the Irish Cancer Society Research Advisory Board and an Associate Editor of the Journal Psychology and Health.

Jane has given several keynotes both nationally and internationally on related topics including The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Exercise and Mindset and Peak Performance in Sport. 


Explained: The importance of social distancing


The best way to #flattenthecurve is social distancing. To slow down the spread of COVID-19, everyone needs to limit social contact as much as possible, immediately. It is only effective if enough people do it. But if we do, it could mean the difference between the life and death of someone you know.


How to workout from home

Katie Hesketh is a PhD Researcher at the Liverpool John Moores University. Her Phd was about exercising at home.

“As you will be aware in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 we have now been advised to social-isolate. One of the problems with this situation is a serious reduction in our physical activity and exercise levels. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but exercise keeps you fit and healthy, and can also help reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Something I think we all need at the moment!

Although, like many other mundane things, the way we exercise also now needs to change. Luckily I have been conducting research during my PhD on exercising at home, specifically using home-based high intensity interval training (HIIT). From completing this research, I have gathered a few tips and tricks that helped my participants complete their exercises 3 times a week for 12 weeks.

The key ones for me are make sure you have a work out space. All you need is to lay down a towel or a yoga mat and voilà: a workout space!

One of the biggest tricks that worked for my participants was exercising in the morning. And you now have a reason to get changed out of those PJs!

Finally, grab a buddy to workout with. This doesn’t need to be in person, you could set up an exercise What’s App group, or Skype while exercising to keep yourself motivated!
Happy exercising everyone!”