Physical Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get the most out of our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. It includes taking care of our bodies and recognizing that our daily habits and behaviours have a significant impact on our overall health, wellbeing and quality of life.

This section includes more information about:

  • setting up a comfortable, ergonomic work/study space at home to prevent pain or injury 
  • keep that body moving - benefits of regular movement in your work or study times
  • finding your 30 - tips for regular exercise during isolation
  • eating well
  • how to get a good night's sleep
  • continuing routine health check-ups

Setting up a comfortable ergonomic work or study space at home to prevent pain or injury

Taking a few minutes to set up our work or study spaces can be an important step in preventing pain and injuries such as overuse injuries, headaches, muscle aches/fatigue and "pinched nerves" over the short and long term.

Setting up your space need not be complicated. Using the tips below, check that your chair, worksurface and monitor heights are appropriate for you and the work that you are now doing from home. If they need adjustment, try using books, pillows, cushions or rolled up towels to adjust heights or provide support.

Below are some basic tips to set up a safe and comfortable work or study space. For more detailed information, including practical ways to adjust your home environment, you can refer to the How To Set up A Home Workstation Information Sheet:

  • Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees and hips are at roughly 90 degrees.
  • Adjust your backrest so that the curve of your lower back is well supported to sit you in a relaxed, upright position.
  • Whether you are sitting or standing, adjust your worksurface height so that your shoulders are relaxed, and your hands are "floating" over the keyboard when you type.
  • Position your monitor so that the top of the screen is level with your eyes when you are sitting upright and looking straight ahead. Position your monitor close enough to your body so that you do not have to lean forward or squint to read the screen.
  • Consider your space in terms of light and lighting, sound, temperature and distractions.  

Keep that Body Moving - Maintaining movement throughout your work or study time

Regular posture breaks and movement are an important part of maintaining physical wellbeing. Such breaks help us to avoid overuse injuries and muscle fatigue, as well as supporting good brain function and helping us to manage our emotional states. Moving regularly throughout the day also supports a healthy metabolism keeping our whole system well regulated. In our usual work and study spaces, we often get movement and posture breaks naturally through walking from the bus-stop or carpark, walking between meetings or classes, walking to the printer or kitchen, going to get a cuppa at morning tea and so on. However, during this time, many of these incidental breaks do not occur. As such, to ensure you take regular breaks, it is important to structure them into your day. Ideally, every 20 - 30 minutes, stand up and walk around for 2 minutes. Try to swing your arms and move them about as well during this time or, do some stretches that suit you. Of course, there will be times when this may not be possible such as during an intensive teaching block, class or meeting, but making this part of your daily habits is one of the most important ways of staying well, staying productive and comfortable while working or studying. To help remind you to take breaks you can download the work rave software or similar applications, use a timer on your phone or computer or whatever other tools or strategies work for you to keep moving.

Find your 30 - Continuing to exercise

Continuing to exercise regularly is another important way to maintain your health during this time. 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity is recommended. Regular exercise contributes not only to your physical health but also to your mental health and mental fitness through supporting good circulation and brain function, as well as the familiarity of a daily routine. While access to gym's, team sports and other facilities may be limited, there is a tremendous range of online resources for activities to do at home, or, you can just go for a regular walk and enjoy the beautiful Canberra scenery. Where possible, keep doing the same exercise you've done previously, even if in a different location, where you can't do that, wherever possible stick to the same times of day or week that you are used to exercising and modify your activity at home. You might even find a new favourite thing to do! Even swimmers and water sports players can find activities to maintain their fitness to be ready to jump back in the pool! (see our resources!)

Eating well

During long periods at home particularly when we are isolated, it can be very easy to change our eating habits. For some this means eating too much, or eating foods that are unhealthy for us, for others, it means, forgetting to eat or not eating enough of the right foods to nourish our brains and bodies. Eating is an important biological activity, we need to provide our physical self with the nutrients to stay healthy, to function optimally and to ward off disease. Eating is also a strongly social activity in most human societies, dictated by time of day, important events and the people around us. Taking a few moments to be aware of our eating habits, and how they may have changed will allow you to ensure a healthy routine and a healthy intake of food is sustained throughout this time. You can also use mealtimes as a signal for a break during work, and as a time for connecting with your household. Consider using online resources and videoconference to have a virtual meal with friends or family outside the home. Sharing a meal is such an intrinsic part of our culture, and it doesn't have to stop because we are physically distanced.

How to get a good night's sleep

With changes to our daily routine, our exercise and eating habits, as well as the addition of some degree of worry, our sleep can be compromised. Sleep is as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing. Sleep is the time for the body to recharge and repair and for the mind to rest. Different people need different amounts of sleep, though if you feel you are not getting the right amount for you, consider trying some of the steps below to promote a good night's sleep or refer to the ANU Healthy Sleep Information Sheet for more details:

  1. Establish a good routine - Try to stick to a consistent sleep routine, with the same bed and wake times each day (including weekends!) and the same sequence of activities in the lead up to bed each night. It can take a few weeks to fully establish a new sleep routine, but a restful night's sleep is worth the extra effort so stick at it until you see results.
  2. Before Bed - Activities that are stimulating should be avoided in the hour or two before bed. This includes moderate exercise, computer games, TV, social media, as well as consuming caffeine and sugary food and drink. Consider activities such as reading something that relaxes you or listening to quiet music in the lead up to bedtime. If you must use a screen for these activities, use a filter to reduce blue light.
  3. Bedroom -Wherever possible, the bedroom should be used for sleeping and intimacy only. Keep screens and devices or other reminders of work or study tasks away from the bedroom, create a calm relaxing space for sleeping with lower lighting and comfortable temperatures. If your bedroom is currently your workspace, try to change the space so it looks one way for sleep and another for work - a little extra time and effort here can significantly boost psychological cues for sleep
  4. During the Day - Set an alarm if needed to make sure you also wake and get out of bed at the same time each day. Where possible, stay out of bed during your "waking" hours as it is important to train the brain to link the bed with sleep. Eat well, go out in natural sunlight, particularly first thing in the morning and exercise daily to help your body to be physically tired and ready for sleep.

Continuing Routine Health Checks 

While there continues to be a need for extra care and caution in our activities outside the home, it remains important to care for our whole selves. If you have a long term medical condition, or if you are due for a regular check-in with your GP, dentist or other health care provider, give the clinic that you usually would attend a call to ask about their current practices and make an appointment for yourself, even if it's for a time in the future.  This helps to maintain all aspects of your health to allow you to continue to engage well in work, teaching or learning activities and, to return to campus when the time comes. 

If you are a currently enrolled student at the ANU you have access to the National Health Coop (NHC) membership at no cost. If you are an ANU staff member, you are welcome to join the NHC. Information on NHC membership and what this entitles you to is available here.