How to Combat the Dangers of Inactivity

For Employers
October 13, 2022
Joint risks of an inactive lifestyle

How to Combat the Dangers of Inactivity

Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is a fact of life, especially for those who work at a desk, or are of advanced age. Your joints are critical to movement. When those joints are stressed, overused, or injured, you experience any level of MSK pain — long term (chronic), or short term (acute).

Strain is not the only offender of MSK injury. We understand that backs ache, shoulders hurt, and knees break down as a result of overuse. However, studies show that lack of movement may be the biggest culprit of MSK pain.

In the last 20 years, MSK pain has become steadily more prevalent across North America and Europe. Back and shoulder pain is at an all time high. Surgeries continue to increase, despite that outcomes aren’t improving. Yet, over the last 50 (and even 20) years, the average adult is less engaged in daily, active movement.

If we’re moving our bodies less, how can we be in more pain?

MSK pain in the digital age

For many of us, working from home means we’re moving less — no commute, no in-person meetings, no socializing in the kitchen. We are often bound to chairs for long hours and live in a dominantly virtual world. Our fingers and thumbs do the majority of the work, typing emails and scrolling for entertainment. Fewer steps are taken. Less time is spent outdoors. And working from home has made it even worse. Even 77% of teenagers today don’t get enough physical activity. In the 21st century, human beings spend an unprecedented amount of time sitting. And no amount of “good posture” can prevent the issues that arise with a lack of movement.

Motion is lotion — active movement makes for more comfort

Human bodies are designed to move. When our bodies and joints settle into place for too long, pain starts to rise. But there’s a conundrum with MSK pain. Whether in your elbows, shoulders, back, knees, hips, wrists, or neck, once the pain begins, you’re less motivated to move.

Your joints are wrapped tight in a compact of synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates your joints, giving them flexibility and range of motion. When bodies move, they produce more synovial fluid. It’s the result of overall good health, but particularly proper movement — exercise and regular activity that keeps the fluid from drying up. When that fluid dries, you’re left with stiff joints that make it difficult to stand or walk, and degeneration is inevitable.

We’ve long been taught that the best medicine for pain is rest. “An inflamed, hot or painful joint needs rest, but too little exercise can cause muscle weakness, pain and stiffness.” According to Sword Health clinical specialist, Megan Hill, Doctor of Physical Therapy, “The best position for your body is the next position, so scheduling in movement is the best medicine.”

Inactivity hurts the whole person

The numbers are stark. 60% of American adults are not adequately active. As of 2022, nearly $117 billion in annual, direct health care costs are related to low physical activity — and this does not account for the crushing blow of heart disease, diabetes, mental health, and high blood pressure, all of which are inextricably linked to active movement, or the lack of it.

It gets worse. Those who spend long hours sitting are at greater risk of heart disease, blood clots, and nerve damage. Fortunately, the inverse is also true. Physical activity can help you control glucose levels, and positively impact weight and cholesterol. Indeed, even cancer risks can be lowered by regular physical activity.

Inactivity puts your mental health at risk

Active movement has many established mental health benefits, from overall cognitive function (clear thinking and focus), to better sleep, to reduced anxiety and depression. Roughly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder in their lifetime, with anxiety disorders being the most common. Much like the paradox of pain and rest, mental health disorders can affect one’s motivation and ability to be physically active. This explains why 8 in 10 sufferers of musculoskeletal pain also suffer from anxiety and depression. This vicious cycle must end, and movement — even a light 20 minutes of exercise per day — can put a stop to it.

Attention to movement is vital, especially during a time of year when exercise habits and physical activity shrinks to little or none. Colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours unconsciously distance us from healthy, daily activity. This tendency is exactly why it’s so crucial to be mindful of our movement every day.

How digital physical therapy can make a difference

Each day, your body needs a variety of movements to maintain health and strength. Easy-to-use digital physical therapy is designed to help people move more comfortably. With access to a licensed physical therapist, and technology that reads your biofeedback and corrects your form, Sword Health members have the power to heal at home.

With Sword’s digital physical therapy, members experience a 62% reduction in pain, 60% reduction in surgery, and 48% fewer opioids. Beyond these factors, Sword members also experience 52% less anxiety and depression, and recover productivity losses by 42%. All of which clears the way for a life of movement, free from pain.

Learn how Sword Digital Physical Therapy can help your people by reaching out today.

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