An average working day is 8 hours long. For an office worker, the majority of that time is spent at a computer. With the advancement of technology, we are also spending our spare time interacting with screens. Poor ergonomics and lack of movement negatively impacts our body, from our muscles to our organs. Many people suffer from headaches, neck and shoulder pain, wrist and elbow pain, low back and leg pain….all from sitting too long in one position! What is even more intriguing, is that research has shown that increased periods of sitting can also lead to additional health concerns such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugars, increased belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Pretty drastic results from “just sitting”.
What is interesting, is that even those who exercised regularly were not immune to the affects of prolonged sitting. For example, people who exercised regularly, but still sat at a computer for long periods of time were still at risk. Only those who regularly interspersed their hours of sitting with activity showed changes in their metabolic and cardiovascular health. Not only that, but the chosen activity didn’t have to be all-out sweaty bursts of exercise. Choosing simple activities throughout the day, such as getting up to take paper to the recycling bin or standing up while having a snack, changed the outcomes of the impact of prolonged sitting.
Here are some guidelines on how to minimize the impact of sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time, regardless if you are at work or at home!
1) Include regular “movement” breaks – every 15 – 20 minutes to shake out arms, stretch out neck, twist torso, squeeze shoulder blades etc
2) Include regular “get up and stretch” breaks – every 60 minutes to stand and stretch arms to the ceiling, touch toes, if possible lie on the floor and do a spinal twist or a round of sun salutations!
3) Drink plenty of water/fluids to encourage regular bathroom breaks and to keep stagnant muscles hydrated
4) Get creative – find regular “excuses” to leave your desk for short periods of time. Move the recycle bin so its farther from your desk, use the washroom on a different floor, hand deliver a note to a co-worker instead of email.
Remembering to do these simple exercises is probably the toughest obstacle to overcome. Luckily for us, technology can help with this. Set an alarm on your watch/phone/computer to remind you to move and stretch. If this becomes easy to ignore, purchase an “old fashioned” alarm clock that rings until you turn it off. Now place that alarm across the room from you! Garenteed you will get up and turn it off!
Adjusting your workstation so it fits your body is also key. There are some basic rules you can follow to help with your bodies mechanics. Here are some general guideline for how your workstation should be arranged.
1) Adjust your chair height so that your hips and knees are at 90 degree angles.
2) There should be little pressure on the backs of your thighs. Resting your feet on a slightly raised platform may help.
3) A chair that has adjustable armrests is helpful. Adjusting the armrests so your forearms are gently supported at a 90 angle is ideal.
4) Have your wrists supported comfortably at the keyboard.
5) Your monitor should be directly in front of you, angled so that you can easily look directly at it without tilting your head up or down.
6) Sit with your back supported by your chair. Use a lumbar support or a small pillow to support your low back.
For more information about workstation ergonomics from Worksafe BC, click here.
There are a number of other workstation solutions that include a standing desk or even using a treadmill while talking on the phone…Be creative in how you incorporate movement into your day! You could be saving your own life.
While there may be information related to certain medical conditions and their treatment on this website, please consult your doctor or other healthcare professional to determine if a treatment described in the website is appropriate for you.
Kirsten Hammond is a Registered Massage Therapist and owner of Evolutions Massage Therapy Clinic- Saanich, BC & Sidney, BC & Brentwood Bay, BC