Now more than ever, we accomplish many of our daily work tasks through screen time and keystrokes, all while sitting “comfortably” at our desks. This has given us agency over many of our daily tasks, with less personal physical demand required. So ironically, we’re doing more while simultaneously moving less. This inverse relationship has led many of us to sit 8, 10, even 12 hours a day!
The real problem with our modern-day work environment is that prolonged sitting has a litany of negative effects on your body including:
● Development of poor posture and postural strain making our necks, shoulders, hips and backs sore and achy
● Loss of flexibility in our spine and joints
● Decreased core muscle strength
● Decreased bone density
● Development of poor breathing patterns causing early fatigue and decreased focus
All of the above increases our risks for more serious injuries like disc herniations, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff impingement syndrome, hip degeneration, etc. If that’s not enough motivation to rethink your work day strategy, consider these additional hazards linked to prolonged sitting:
● Cardiovascular disease
● Metabolic disease (e.g. diabetes)
● Some forms of cancer (colon, breast, and endometrial)
● Increased rate of mortality
Solutions and Strategies
Ideal sitting posture and Ergonomic Workstation Basics:
● Sit with your back supported by the chair’s back rest.
● Position your hips and knees at 90 degree angles, with feet flat on the ground below your knees.
● Use a footrest when appropriate.
● It helps to have an ergonomic desk chair with variable heights and variable sitting angles.
● Keep your elbows by your side, flexed at 90 degrees with the keyboard and mouse placed within your power zone.
● Computer monitor placement must be at least 20” directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at eye level and without glare or clarity issues.
Note: Ideal sitting posture is a position by which there is the least amount of compressive load on your spinal disc decreasing the risk of injury; however, any sitting posture, held for a prolonged period can cause fatigue and injury. For this reason, varying the sitting posture every 15 minutes is recommended.
Variable sitting posture:
● Don’t attempt to remain in the ideal sitting posture for your entire day. Instead, vary the posture about every 15 minutes. This helps redistribute the load on your tissues and joints, giving them a chance to recover.
● Keep ideal posture in mind, but get creative with varying seated positions:
o Cross one leg over the other
o Sit cross legged
o Adjust the angle of the chair to change the angle of your spine
Microbreaks and Movement:
● There is no substitute for simply getting up and taking a break from sitting.
● Microbreaks are meant to be taken every 30 minutes to an hour.
● Microbreak Goals: Postural reset through postural exercises, increasing your heart-rate through movement and exercise, and mental clarity through movement and breathing exercises.
● See these examples:
● Stand while talking on the phone.
● When possible, walk with colleagues to discuss work/project ideas instead of sitting in a meeting room. (Steve Jobs was known to use this strategy quite regularly).
● Create a workstation which allows you to work while seated or standing. However, don’t forget to incorporate movement into your work day. Prolonged standing is not the solution for prolonged sitting.
● Develop a buddy system for accountability when it comes to performing daily microbreaks.
● Let us perform an onsite ergonomic assessment for you.