Sitting Ducks: How to Protect Your Health in the Age of the Office Chair
Are you sitting too much? The answer is “probably”.
In a world where many people - whether in offices or factories - work in confined seating for most of the time, the discomfort and lack of movement is a silent killer. Research over the years has shown the horrifying negative health impacts on those who spend too much time in their office chairs.
From an article in The Conversation in 2017, we see the awful effects: “Over the past 15 years or so, sitting has been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes and even depression. This has led to a surge in media stories on the risks of sitting, even for people who do a lot of exercise.” A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 confirmed that sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death.
All of this research was followed by the American Heart Association’s Motto: Sit Less, Move More. That’s a directive we can get behind.
The good news?
There are several ways that you can reduce the negative health risks associated with your 8-hour days, and they’re all doable, sustainable, and incredibly critical to ensuring your desk job doesn’t follow the hyperbole and actually kill you.
Step 1: Get Moving
Taking a movement break every 30 minutes at work can stave off the office-chair effect and prevent many negative impacts that are caused by eight hours of immobility. Improve the health of your heart and blood vessels by taking a walk, stretching, or getting some fresh air on a very regular basis.
In addition, your general levels of physical activities throughout the week can mitigate a number of these health risks.
Step 2: Get Active
45 to 60 minutes of exercise, four to five times per week is recommended to all adults as the goal for optimum health.
With overwhelming data that supports exercise as the number one solution, how do we ensure that when we work, we aren’t undoing all our hard work?
As noted by Zack Arnold on his site Optimize Yourself, being sedentary is the killer – whether you’re sitting, standing, or lying on a bench at the gym. Keeping your full range of motion is critical.
However, the folks at The Conversation suggest that even without these active and sometimes-impossible options, the type of sitting we do is far more impactful of our health than the amount of sitting we do.
Even though we can’t all go for half-hourly walks, it’s possible to keep your body in tip-top condition by allowing free movement and back-support in the assumed work-position. That’s why you should be unrestricted, mobile, and comfortable in your office chair.
Luckily, this area is one in which extensive research and legwork have been done to ensure that ergonomic, supporting office chairs are the norm on the market.
Let’s see if you’re sitting too much. Do you suffer from any of the listed symptoms below?
- lower back pain
- joint stiffness
- lack of productivity or stress
Lower back pain is the most common complaint of workers in office environments, with a whopping 74% of people experiencing pain or discomfort a few or more times per week.
The lack of support provided to your lower back creates an overcompensation in your muscles, and the unnatural position you are forced into may cause cramps, stiffness, and discomfort.
In addition to this, with additional strain on your musculoskeletal structure, your body will be tired, under stress, and more likely to cause a drop in your productivity and an increase in mental stress.
According to the Washington State Department of Labour and Industries, when employees are under physical stress, absenteeism increases, errors are more common, and concentration takes a huge knock.
Ergonomic office chairs allow you to address these requirements while ensuring that your posture and position are not hindering you or damaging your body. “Keeping the legs perpendicular to the hips and the spine can induce great strain on the lower back, hamstrings, and even shoulders and neck. Further, hunching forward to access a keyboard can generate further physical strain, and over time, this can add up to debilitating aches and pains,” says Lemonade Hub.
This Illustration from the University of Washington shows the posture your chair should support.
Get your body comfortable and reduce the strain you suffer from chair-related discomfort, and improve your concentration, accuracy, and attendance.
The info-graphic below, from Visually, shows us the range of benefits on your body, that transform your mind:
If your office chair can make such a difference and reduce the impact of your desk job on your lifespan, it’s a great idea to give yourself the space to keep your blood flowing and support your body while you work. Replacing your chair is the simplest solution.
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