You’ve heard it before: Is sitting the new smoking?
We asked our osteo Ginger Wollermann all about this and here are her thoughts…
“There are so many people these days who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk for work, study and binge-watching series’ on their favourite streaming service! I’m pretty sure the jury is still out as to whether too much sitting is going to be the new smoking, but in the clinic, we certainly see a lot of people who have aches and pains that are related to them sitting too much.”
The saying “motion is lotion” is so true for us humans: movement is an essential ingredient to a healthy lifestyle and most importantly, feeling good (read not in pain!). Ginger goes on to explain further “I think the most important thing you can do to counter all of this sitting is change your behaviour. Firstly, you must be aware of how much time you spend sitting. If you are aware of this, then you can take some action to remedy it.”
Here are Ginger’s top 10 tips for avoiding sitting too much, particularly at work:
Take scheduled 1 hour breaks to stretch; get up from your chair even more frequently if you can, you only need to stand up for a minute and do a quick stretch or grab a cuppa and then return to the desk.
Utilise your lunch break more effectively, go for a quick 15 minute walk and get some fresh air.
Volunteer for the coffee runs!
Have a sit to stand desk and alternate between the two.
Walk and speak with your co-workers rather than emailing or calling them.
Take the stairs rather than the lift.
Park further away from work and walk, or use the furthest rest room from your desk.
Sitting on a Swiss Ball (exercise ball) rather than a stationary chair can be good for some but you need to make sure that the height of the ball you sit on is appropriate for the desk (apologies for anyone short as this won’t work for you!).
Have a drink bottle (not a big one) or a glass of water at your desk, you will either have to get up to fill it up or use the rest room.
Swap waiting for moving – rather than waiting for the photocopier or printer to finish its job, take a walk down the corridor.
Learn more about why sitting less is good for your health here courtesy of the Heart Foundation.
How about if you are doing all the right things in terms of mobility at work/study/home and you still have pain?
Perhaps then it is time to look at your desk set-up, or the “slouch on the couch”, or your neck and head posture being forward while you look down at your laptop all the time. The latter two are relatively easily corrected through adjusting you posture, sitting upright, sitting cross-legged on the floor or doing some stretches while you watch Game of Thrones, and choosing a physical activity rather than watching. Your desk set-up however may need a little more complicated to get right. Obviously no two people are alike so no two desk set-ups will be identical either: adjustable chairs, foot rests, desk heights, positioning of computers, mouse, documents, phone positioning and hand receivers and headsets can all be tailored to suit your individual needs.
Here are some further tips from Ginger, this time regarding desk ergonomics:
Adjust the height so that your elbows are at 90 degrees (a little more is also ok), forearms parallel with the floor, wrists straight and shoulders relaxed. If you have short legs, get a foot rest or low stool so your feet rest comfortably and below your knees, your legs are vertical.
Seat pan (the part you sit on), is usually adjustable (tilt forward and backward) to allow for comfortable sitting; avoid any flexion at the hips past 90 degrees.
Having good back arch support can help your lumbar spine, help prevent slouching and encourage good posture.
If you are using a computer screen, your eyes should be level with an imaginary line about one third down from the top of the screen and of course, it should be directly in front of you.
The size of your desk is worth consideration. Ideally you want the position of keyboard, mouse and other desk materials to be within a comfortable reach of both hands – too big can involve reaching too far and too small can lead to a cramped workspace. Try and have all materials in front of you or within a small arc close to you.
There are many different versions of standing desks or sit-to-stand desks available. These can certainly be helpful and provide some variety throughout your day. The height of your standing desk does need to be adjusted appropriately for your height as well (see the infographic below).
If any of these points sound confusing, or you’re still suffering from persistent pain then please reach out to us. All of our clinicians are well versed on ergonomics and are here to help you find a solution.