Sitting is not the new smoking…

17 Oct 2018

It’s how you sit and move that makes all the difference, say experts…

There’s no doubt that sitting for too long is bad for your health, and there have been countless studies to prove it. However, it’s not the act of sitting itself that’s bad, it’s how you sit and for how long that really has an impact on your health and overall well-being.

The problem with sedentary behaviour

Globally, 1 in 4 adults aren’t moving enough, according to the World Health Organization. And, in a recent study published in the journal, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, researchers maintain that too much sitting – also known as sedentary behaviour, is the real problem as everything in your body slows down. You burn fewer calories, your blood sugar levels become unstable and your blood circulation slows right down, which could lead to weight gain, obesity and metabolic problems, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes. What’s more, the effects of being sedentary for too long, go far beyond what you may think. Some surprising effects include;

  • Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • An increased risk of several types of cancer
  • A higher chance of developing dementia, (if you’re predisposed to the condition)
  • Lower back pain and alignment issues – from being in one position for too long.

I’ve also seen these effects first-hand, when I consult with clients. Those who sit at a desk for too long, spend hours sitting in traffic and then lie on the couch after work often complain that they’re tired, get sick more often and just feel down a lot of the time. This is because our bodies are designed to move! The more we move and change positions, the better. This doesn’t mean we can’t sit at all, it’s the combination of activities we do in a day which all add up and make the ultimate difference.

Making changes in the workplace

As we head more into the digital age, it’s become second-nature to sit on our phones or behind a screen for hours at a time. Although this isn’t going to change anytime soon, we do have the choice as to how we move throughout the day. And, how we sit.

I recently met with an ergonomist, Josie King (MSc Ergonomics) to discuss how we should be sitting and standing at work. She mentioned the innovative Humanscale QuickStand ECO which is fast-becoming the most popular ‘sit-stand’ desk in SA due to its functionality, and the fact that it allows you to seamlessly change positions as you work. I’ve been using it myself for some time, and although I’m constantly on the go, this piece of equipment has transformed my work space and made me excited to be behind my laptop!

Josie explained that one of the biggest causes of back pain is how we sit; hunch over our laptops and PCs. “This is because sitting forward for too long puts stress on the muscles and discs in your back, shoulders and neck and influences the natural curve of the spine. Therefore, sitting back in a chair will take pressure off the vertebrae, as we put the spine in its natural position” she adds.

Sitting strategies

If you have acute back pain, follow these tips when you sit:

  • Always adjust your position, if you’re feeling uncomfortable when sitting try stand up and if you’re feeling uncomfortable standing, sit down again. We need to listen to our bodies.
  • If you don’t have an ergonomic chair that offers lower back support and you’re seated for most of the day; look at investing in one; it will help to ease your pain and discomfort.
  • Keep your hips and knees at a 90º angle. Your legs shouldn’t be crossed, and your feet should be flat on the floor (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary).

The key is to change positions

Josie maintains that if you have the option to change positions when you feel uncomfortable, you’ll have much less chance of experiencing back pain or other problems. Why? Because we are meant to move! With the Humanscale QuickStand ECO (QSE), you can naturally transition between sitting and standing as often as you like, allowing you to be active throughout the day, she says. Because, believe it or not, standing for too long is also not good for your body. As you become tired, you tend to lean forward more or to one side, which are unnatural positions for your body. And if you’re standing hunching over your computer, it can also cause excessive back, neck and shoulder pain. Additionally, standing for too long can contribute to varicose veins and cause swelling in the legs and ankles. Not ideal!

The QuickStand ECO (QSE) allows for functional movement throughout your work day. These are just some of the benefits I’ve personally experienced while using it;

  • You have the choice of four simple set-ups, including laptop, single or dual monitor configurations.
  • It’s so simple to set-up (no drilling required), plus it’s portable so it can easily be moved if needed.
  • It has a sleek, minimal design which I love as it looks professional in any space.
  • I adjust the setting to stand when I consult with clients and this makes it so much easier to capture data at eye level when I’m taking measurements and assessing body fat etc.
  • It’s made only with healthy, sustainable materials – no formaldehyde or PVC, which is ideal for my office environment.

For more information on this fabulous product, as well as additional ergonomic furniture from global brand Humanscale, including chairs, monitor arms and lights, visit www.ergolab.co.za or follow them on social media;

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