Sitting down most of the day has become a staple across the world, with most of us spending up to ten to twelve hours a day in a seated position. There is our morning commute to work, a full day of sitting at work, our afternoon commute after work, and then more often than not, sitting down at home to relax after a long day. With the long periods of time spent sitting in an idle position, it eventually begins to take a toll on our bodies and leads to problems that are detrimental to our health. Even if you have taken the initiative to find an ergonomic office chair that is perfectly fitted to your body, it is near impossible to sit all day with perfect posture which inevitably leads to back, neck, and shoulder pain. So what exactly makes sitting for extended periods of time unhealthy? After all, sitting tends to be more comfortable than standing all day but just like anything else in life, too much of a good thing can actually become harmful.
As aforementioned, sitting in an ergonomically correct chair is essential and will help aid in keeping you comfortable throughout your work day, however sitting with bad posture at some point during the day is bound to happen. For most of us, the majority of our time is spent sitting behind a computer because of our job demands. As time progresses throughout the day, we slowly start to lose our good posture and let our bodies get lazy, letting gravity take over control. Our shoulders begin to roll forward towards the screen, our eyes become fatigued from staring at the computer, and in order to see better we move our head closer to the screen to re-focus. We may also find ourselves beginning to slouch as the day continues and consistently fidgeting to find a comfortable seated position. All of this leads to the shortening and tightening of some major muscles and the stretching and weakening others, which is why so many people begin to experience back pain while they work.
The human body requires a balanced diet and a balanced level of activity in order to function properly and fight off diseases. Unfortunately most jobs prevent us from getting the level of activity necessary to maintain a healthy life style, and if you couple this with sitting in a poor chair for hours on end staring at a computer screen only makes matters worse. You may find yourself not paying attention to being locked in the same position for long periods of time while focusing on completing an important task or project, making you also unaware of the tension that is being built up in your body. Eventually, your body will come to the rescue and give you a dose of pain to remind you that is necessary to get up and take a break. While work is always a top priority, your body and its needs should always be put first and if you begin to feel pain and fatigue it is important to take necessary stretch breaks in order to regain focus and ultimately, become more productive.
Sitting all day also reduces your calorie expenditure and is one of the leading causes of obesity today. When you move less throughout the day and do not reduce the amount of calories you consume, you naturally gain body fat. By lessening your physical activity, you are also slowing down your metabolism which is another assured way to gain weight.
Our bodies were never designed to remain static in one fixed position for long periods of time. From the beginning of man-kind, we were taught to be hunters and gatherers, always on the move to provide our families with food. Even as the decades have passed, humans have continued to move as they went about different tasks needing to be done in their lives until recently when automation has begun taking over. After sitting all day at work and then continuing to relax by sitting down all evening we are consequently putting strain on our muscles, causing them to tighten and lead to aches and pains.
And so the question is presented, how does one improve their health while working?
Get a new ergonomic office chair if yours is not ergonomically correct. Of course getting a new chair is only part of the solution, but a chair that is properly adjusted to your body and provides you with good support, you will slowly start to experience less work related pain that can be felt from sitting in a bad chair.
- Park farther away. Make a plan to arrive to work a few minutes earlier than you usually do and park in the farthest parking space or even a few minutes away from your building, forcing you to have to walk farther than normal.
- Take breaks once an hour if your job requires you to sit for long periods of time. Set a timer on your computer to remind yourself to take your much needed breaks to get up, stretch, or even just walk around. It is easy to forget to do this when you become preoccupied with what you are working on, which is why setting a timer can be helpful.
- Find ways throughout the day to get up and move. Is your printer located next to your desk? Try switching the location of your printer to a different floor to force yourself to get up out of your chair and walk around.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If your suite or office is located at the top of your building, get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way there. Stairs are a quick way to burn calories and tone your muscles.
- If it is an option at your workplace, choose to go with a sit stand desk rather than a desk where you will be forced to sit all day. With the ability to transfer from a seated to a standing position with little effort, you will find yourself experiencing less pain and increasing your productivity while remaining more active.
- Take a run on your lunch break. Most of us try to find things to fill up our time during our hour break anyways. Consider packing a lunch instead of eating out and bring some running clothes with you to take a quick jog.