By Scott Swann, MPT, OCS
Sitting all day is hazardous to your health. When you realize just how hazardous, you’ll be jumping out of your chair at the slightest excuse. Good idea. Looking at 8,800 men and women (average age 53) over six years, researchers found that for every hour of TV viewing, risk for death due to cardiovascular disease increased 18%. For those who watched TV more than four hours daily, risk of death was 80% higher than for those watching fewer than two hours daily. Sitting for 8 hours has been linked to 65% more fatigue, and a greater incidence of diabetes, heart disease, musculoskeletal pain, and overall de-conditioning.
Most of our work force is glued to keyboards and our bodies are simply not designed for it. We are meant to move. Unfortunately, exercising for an hour after work does not counteract being planted on your fanny for the previous eight.
But what about the times when deadlines are approaching, phones are ringing, and meetings are running back to back? What do you do when there are too many distractions to think about exercise?
When it comes to back or neck pain, remember that how you sit in your chair can be as important as how long you sit. Your whole desk set-up will affect how you feel at the end of the day and can determine whether your current pain resolves. Poor ergonomics can lead to everything from tendonitis to headaches. Follow these simple tips to get your workstation working for you:
- Computer screen: Position your computer screen at or slightly below eye level and directly in front of you. Twisting your body to view your screen creates stress throughout the spine and will eventually lead to pain. Optimal screen position will help maintain the healthy curve in your neck
- Legs: Have an adjustable chair so you can change height and back support. Legs should be slightly lower than hips to allow you to rock your pelvis forward. This helps you maintain the natural curve in your back with little effort. Thighs should be almost parallel to the floor and lower legs perpendicular to floor. Don’t cross your legs because it tips your pelvis back and rounds the low back.
- Feet: Keep them firmly planted on the floor with ankle joints at 90 degrees. If your feet dangle, use a small stool or shoebox.
- Arms and elbows: Position the keyboard and mouse near you. Your elbows should have nearly a 90 degree bend and be close to your sides. Keep forearms parallel to the floor, lightly resting on armrests.
- Spine: If prolonged sitting is a must, maintain the natural curve in your spine. It’s easier to do if you can tilt the seat forward. Otherwise, use a lumbar support or towel to help maintain this curve. Your neck also has a natural curve and if you are mindful of your lower back posture, the neck posture will naturally improve. Proper eyeglasses and a large enough computer font will prevent hunching forward to see the screen. Maintain a sitting posture with shoulders back and down and chin slightly drawn back.
- Headset: Use a headset if your job entails extensive time on the telephone.
Whether sitting in a car or at a desk, you need to change position throughout the day, especially if you have neck and back pain. Set a timer on your computer as a reminder to take regular standing breaks. Take stairs rather than elevators or hold “walking meetings” to sneak in a bit of exercise during an otherwise sedentary day. Also, a quick and easy list of “Deskercises” can keep you moving while staying productive. Check out the list of exercises you can do at your desk
These ideas and strategies will help prevent pain. But remember, your body is made to move. So if you want to move beyond pain and into excellent overall health, keep moving. And if pain keeps you from moving, make an appointment. We’ll get you back on your feet.