Many of you may have recently seen articles with the headline “sitting is the new smoking.” As scary as it sounds it is very much the case for a lot of Australians who work at a desk in an office environment.
Recent studies have suggested that for every hour we spend sitting can cut up to 22 minutes from our lifespan and many of us can spend up to 80% of our working day seated.
Australians as a population are eating more and moving less and this, in turn is increasing our risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, muscular pain, depression and even stroke. The World Health Organisation recognises physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer in Australia, that’s ahead of obesity. I bet you’re thinking “but I exercise regularly”, “I stretch”, “I go to the gym”. In fact studies showed that on the days that people exercised they were actually 30% less active than they were on days when they didn’t exercise. The recommended amount of exercise of 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week is enough to benefit from, however if you spend most of your day sitting that 30 minutes will not be enough to counteract the negative effects on your body.
Not only does sitting for such long periods effect you general health and wellbeing if can also have a negative effect on your postural muscles. As we continue to sit at our desks the more fatigued our postural muscles can get, this results in slouching or slumping to try and become more comfortable. The slouched position puts added pressure on our lower back, lessens the activation of our core and can result in a weakening of our postural muscles in our neck and shoulders while the muscles in our chest become tight and our shoulders internally rotated. These changes in our posture can lead to many presentations of lower back pain, shoulder dysfunction, neck pain and even headaches.
So, how do we counteract all these negative changes in our bodies? We don’t need to spend hours at the gym, or even start running marathons, we just need to move more. Whether that means setting an alert in your calendar to get up and walk around every half an hour or just moving the printer or bin away from your desk so that you have to get up more often, stand up during meetings or even have a walking meeting. Even when you’re at home, stand up and move during the ad breaks when watching TV, stand while talking on the phone, get a takeaway coffee and go for a walk instead of sitting in a coffee shop.
None of these suggestions are outrageous strategies that take huge changes to be made to your life, they are all little things that can be done by anyone. So if you or your co-workers are sitting for a large portion of your day it may be worthwhile implementing some of these into your office.