Health & Fitness Mind & Body

Sit right, your life could depend on it

If you spend most of your waking hours sitting at a desk, read on to find out how your health is at risk and what you can do about it.

Beware of the time you spend sitting

About 20% of workers globally sit at a desk for a majority of their working hours. But did you know that extended sitting is directly associated with muscle and joint problems, and a significant increase in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and even depression? An article in the Washington Post has summarised the dangers of prolonged sitting in significant detail. In conclusion, sit less and move more for better health.

Practice the correct sitting posture

When you sit, use the correct posture and take care to maintain it as long as you can. Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA; a world-renowned chain of academic medical centres and healthcare facilities, has published useful guidelines for back health, reproduced here.

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • All 3 normal back curves should be present while sitting. You can use a small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll to help maintain the normal curves in your back.
  • Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
  • Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
  • Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
  • Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Do not cross your legs.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
  • At work, adjust your chair height and work station so that you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up toward you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

Adjust office equipment

Keep your screen at eye level and about 2 feet or an arm’s length away from your body and further if it’s bigger. Make sure your screen is directly in front of you so you don’t turn even slightly to see the full screen.

Position your keyboard and mouse in front of your computer and at elbow height. The keyboard should be flat with a gap of 6 inches between the keyboard and the edge of the desk. Keep the mouse as close to you as possible. A mouse pad with wrist rest helps keep your wrist straight and avoid wrist pain from using the mouse continuously. When you type, do not rest your elbows on the armrests.

Take a break

Leave your desk every 30 minutes – walk or stand for a few minutes. Frequent short breaks are good for your back, relaxing the muscles associated with sitting. If you can’t leave your desk at regular intervals, do short workouts in your chair.

Workout at your desk

As healthy lifestyle trends and physical fitness find increasing acceptance in the modern workplace, people are finding ways to exercise without getting off the chair. This short video by Mayo Clinic demonstrates simple stretches to do in your chair.

Limit the damage while you can

Sitting at a desk is unavoidable for a majority of modern office workers, and all that sitting is slowly and surely causing invisible harm to your body. You can improve your health just by improving your posture. Using your office chair properly and sitting in the correct position can prevent further harm to your muscles and bones, and for the rest of your career, keep you free of injury and many a sick day.

By Romeo Coutinho

Rationalist, truth seeker, full time writer, part time dreamer.

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