No matter the job, there are always some health stressors to look out for. Some jobs have high physical demands and regular physical exertion, but most people nowadays find themselves sitting in front of a desk for hours. Office jobs may not seem like a physically stressful profession, but there are actually major risks that come with the posture you hold in front of a desk.
Have you ever heard the saying that ‘Sitting is the new Smoking’? American statistics show that 80 percent of the workforce today spends their whole day sitting. In addition to this, research has shown that the effects of prolonged sitting can be as hazardous to your health as smoking. This not only means the mechanical toll this has on your body such as stiff joints, tight muscles, and general weakness, but also presents increased risk of disease, especially those related to the heart. In general, as common with chronic smokers, sedentary work demands have shortened life expectancy in this population. The research has also shown that adding regular exercise alone isn’t enough to completely negate the effects and risks. The best way to combat the negative stress of prolonged postures is to keep moving throughout the day, ESPECIALLY AT WORK.
How Do We Fix This?
1. Take regular breaks throughout the day – the most optimal practice is to get up every half hour for a few minutes. Within this time you can stretch and walk around, but most importantly, this allows you to reset your posture to an optimal position so your muscles and joints don’t settle. Let’s be honest, you can’t always be conscious about your posture throughout a 30-minute period when you have work to do.
2. Change your posture while seated – make sure that your feet are planted flat on the ground or resting on a foot rest. Keep your elbows, hips and knees at a 90 degree angle if possible. Use your back rest and make sure there is lumbar support to maintain the alignment in your lower back. Use your arm rests and have them at a reasonable height.
3. Keep your monitor at eye-level – make sure that the bottom of your monitor is in line with your eye level, so that you’re always looking up and down with your eyes and not your head. Head position is important, so turn your whole body when you are looking at dual monitors and make sure your head stays upright over your spine as opposed to slouching forward.
4. Get a standing desk – this has proven to be a great method to stay away from the effects of prolonged sitting. However, do not overwork your legs and do not allow yourself to be caught in a position for too long. Still take frequent breaks and move around so your body doesn’t settle.
BE CONSCIOUS about your posture at work. It’s easy to forget about it as you get busy at work. But make an effort to remind yourself somehow (notes, cellphone, accountability with coworkers) so that you can make sure your work demands don’t have a negative toll on your body and your overall health. If this is new practice for you, be sure to see a professional to see where your posture is at so they can give you more specific advice on how to cope with this at work.
Dr. Alexander Pacis, DC, is a partner at the Active Family Chiropractic & Wellness Centre. www.wellnesschiropractor.com