Stand up if you sit down too much

The working year is now in full swing – gone are the summer holidays filled with long walks, backyard cricket and swimming at the beach. We’re now at our desks and computer screens resulting in hours of sitting, slouching and stillness.

Australians are internationally applauded for a love of the laid-back lifestyle and viewed from afar as masters of the work-life balance. But did you know the average Aussie spends 1855 hours per year at work which The Australia Institute believes is the highest number of hours in the developed world?

With so many of us chained to the chair and staring at screens for most of the day it’s unsettling to learn the possible health ramifications of this ‘sedentary schedule’.

Is sitting down a health hazard?

Is sitting down a health hazard?

Perhaps the least surprising consequence was found in a study revealing sitting down as the culprit of headaches and back, neck, shoulder and arm pain.

More concerning is the fact that staying idle can also put us at risk of death from heart disease. In New Zealand, researchers discovered sitting at a computer for hours on end can cause fatal blood clots, just as long flights can lead to deep vein thrombosis. (Apparently they discovered the link when a 32-year-old man who sat at his computer terminal for up to 18 hours a day nearly died). 

It’s easy to assume going to the gym, running and participating in team sports before or after work will reverse the potential risks of a sedentary desk schedule – however they remain even if we exercise regularly.

According to Sydney-based personal trainer and life coach Rob Derbyshire, many of the aches and pains ‘desk devotees’ suffer from are caused by posture problems.

Poor posture is likely to be brought on by tight muscles (mainly the quads, hip flexors and abdominals (prolonged sitting is again responsible) and weak/lengthened muscles (such as the glutes, deep core muscles, and upper back including rhomboids & lower traps), which are relaxed whilst sitting and not regularly contracted to defy gravity.

As with any condition, prevention is better than cure, so to prevent postural problems it is important to possess a good amount of functional strength, flexibility and stability – and importantly core strength.

Here are Rob’s simple strategies to combat poor posture and move more at work:

  • Sitting on a fit ball 50% of the time
  • Stretching & moving around regularly throughout the working day – take the stairs, make a cup of tea or simply wander to colleague’s desk to say G’day
  • Setting up your desk to the correct ergonomic specs
  • Embarking on a posture improving exercise plan, like yoga, Pilates or a class run by a skilled personal trainer
  • Avoiding exercise that is contra-indicative to good posture such as, lots of sit ups and activities that repeatedly perform the same movement
  • Indulging in a massage or learn some SMFR (Self Myofascial Release) techniques

You’re probably sitting down at your desk right now…so get up, move and make 2010 the year you take your work health standing up, not sitting down!

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