Of all the changes that came about in 2020, perhaps the most significant change was the shift towards remote work. Initially, many of us assumed that there would be a brief, few-week period in which we all worked from home while we tried to quell the COVID-19 virus. But a few weeks turned into a few months, and now, over a year after the pandemic first entered our lives, many employees are planning on working from home indefinitely. How are remote work and pulmonary health related?
While working from home provides many benefits such as more time spent with family, less money spent on gas, and a generally flexible schedule; there are downsides to the trend as well. One major consequence of long-term remote work on pulmonary health has been its detrimental effects.
Physical Demand at the Office Vs. At Home
To understand the impact of remote working on pulmonary health, think about the typical workday. Barring unusual circumstances, the average worker will generally walk:
- To get into his or her car/catch public transportation to work;
- Throughout the office to attend meetings;
- To the break room or restroom a few times a day;
- To his or her car/catch transportation home.
As minor as these movements may seem, these short walks add up to at least a few minutes of exercise throughout the day, forcing the cardiorespiratory system to kick into gear.
Compared with the average day of working from home, where the employee will typically:
- Wake up and walk a few feet to their desk;
- Maybe get up one or two times to use the restroom;
- Sit all day long.
So, the office doesn’t provide us with as much physical activity as health experts would recommend for optimal pulmonary health. However, the movement achieved through just being present at the office forces our hearts and lungs to move oxygen throughout our body and our muscles to work harder than they generally do while we’re at home. So, what about the impacts of remote working on pulmonary health?
Physical Activity and Lung Health
In general, those who exercise or are physically active tend to have healthier respiratory systems than those who are sedentary.
Some specific information from published studies:
- In a head to head comparison of sedentary individuals and those who exercised: resting, peak, and 5 minutes post-exercise respiratory rates were all markedly improved in the exercise group.
- A study from 2016 showed small, but positive changes in a group of healthy adults as a result of an increase in physical activity.
- Even smokers who exercise tend to experience improved lung health as compared to smokers who are sedentary.
As you can hopefully see from just a sampling of the many studies in the published literature: exercise and physical activity are VERY good for lung health.
How Can Remote Workers Improve Their Lung Health?
It seems obvious, right? If we’re moving less at home, all we need to do to counteract the problem is get up and move! Unfortunately, it is not that easy. If it were, we’d have the healthiest society ever, and we are very far from that reality.
According to the experts, there are a number of ways to increase daily physical activity and pulmonary health, specifically:
- Take a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood before or after work;
- Set an alert to remind you to stand up and stretch/move around for 5 minutes after every hour of work;
- Perform 10 minutes of yoga with a focus on breathing at some point every day;
- Get a standing desk;
- Set up your station so that you can sit on an exercise bike while you work;
- And many more options!
What To Do If You Get Sick While Working From Home
No matter how healthy our diets or how perfect our exercise routines; sometimes we just can’t help getting sick.
Recently, intense scrutiny has been recently placed on our health. Thus we are now acutely aware of what to do throughout the entire process of contracting a disease and recovering from it.
- Drink Plenty of Fluids. Our mothers were right: drinking e enough fluids is one of the best ways to help our bodies fight off illness.
- Eat Healthy Meals. Even though we may not have the ability to eat as much as usual when we’re sick, it’s still important to provide our bodies with calories, vitamins, and minerals so that our immune systems can fight back against the disease.
- Continue to Exercise as Able. Exercise and movement are essential for our health even when we’re sick. Extra rest is encouraged with some diseases and very severe symptoms. You don’t have to exercise at the level you do when you are healthy, but just getting up and walking for five minutes may help you feel a little better. Additionally, there are exercises that may help with managing a cough (if that is one of your symptoms), such as controlled coughing and deep breathing.
- Track Symptoms When Possible. When we got sick in years past, we had few methods of tracking our symptoms except for when our doctors ran tests. Now, especially for respiratory illnesses, we have access to amazing technology such as the Hyfe app, which can track coughs and provide incredibly detailed data. It’s incredible what our coughs can tell us about our health and, apps such as Hyfe are just merely scratching the surface on what is sure to be an incredibly important field in the future.
Remote working on pulmonary health – Conclusion
Working from home may be the norm for many employees for the foreseeable future. But just because we aren’t going into the office, this does not mean we have to become sedentary. On the contrary, there are many ways to keep active while at home. Also, should you become sick while working from home, there are plenty of science-backed methods for combating disease.
If you only take one thing from this article, just get up and MOVE every chance you get!