Dr. Scott Bautch
President, American Chiropractic Association Council on Occupational Health
As the world moves toward more sedentary lifestyles and office jobs become the new norm, it’s important to be mindful of the risks of sitting behind a desk for 6-8 hours every day. Movement is essential to physical and mental health, and it’s important to integrate as much of it into our workdays as possible. Movement-friendly work environments are crucial for the well-being of employees and contribute to increased productivity, motivation and a positive attitude.
‘Sitting is the new smoking’
Our bodies are designed to move and movement plays a vital role in allowing them to function properly. The phrase “sitting is the new smoking” has a lot of truth to it. Some studies suggest that for every hour you sit still, you knock an average of 21.8 minutes off your life, which is comparable to smoking two to three cigarettes. Without adequate movement, you put your body at higher risk for numerous serious health problems including depression, diabetes, cancer, and digestive and cardiovascular issues.
There are many products that can help create a more movement-friendly environment but no matter how ergonomically friendly your office space is, you won’t benefit unless you take full advantage of them. For example, adjustable chairs and desks that can be used while sitting or standing can be great assets, but the key is to use them to their maximum variability.
It’s important to adjust your body position as often as you can. No matter how comfortable you are, staying in one place for too long puts unnecessary stress on different parts of the body. Variety and movement keep your mind and your body happy, helping you remain focused and engaged at work.
Give me a break
Taking 5- to 10-second microbreaks roughly four times per hour is a great way to stay mindful of your need to adjust your posture and stretch your muscles, keeping your body position as neutral as possible.
Setting a timer to pop up on your computer screen every 15 minutes is a great start. When the timer pops up, take your eyes off the screen, spread your fingers and take a deep breath. Try resting the muscles you were using and using the ones you were resting. Straighten anything that was bent, and open what was closed.
Take every opportunity you can to go for a short walk, including during your lunch break or a company phone call. Use what you already have to your advantage. Try taking the stairs to a restroom on a different floor or rearranging your office to force yourself to stand up more. Train yourself to be mindful of all opportunities for movement.
Treating aches and pains
In the event of musculoskeletal pain, don’t just cover up symptoms. Try first to determine if changes in your routine or environment can alleviate the pain, then consider using conservative, non-drug chiropractic services before moving on to other treatments. Learn more at www.acatoday.org/patients.