TIME TO STAND UP!
LIFESTYLE Spending too much time sitting is bad for your health – here’s what you can do to counter it
IT’S something most of us would happily do. Sitting is generally equated with rest and relaxation. But doing it for hours on end can lead to a host of aches and pains and it’s also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression.
It’s particularly problematic for those who are stuck behind desks with their bottoms on seats for hours on end every day. So what can we do to ease the pressure on our bodies?
We need to move more throughout the day, the American Heart Association says. Regular gym sessions don’t cut it.
Here’s what you can do to beat the harmful effects of sitting too much.
MOVE – LIKE CLOCKWORK
Get up every 20 minutes or half hour and move around. Set an alarm as a reminder.
“At a minimum, you should be getting up every hour,” says Professor Alan Hedge, director of the human factors and ergonomics laboratory at Cornell University in America.
He recommends that after sitting for 20 minutes, you stand for eight minutes then move around for two minutes. Think about whether there are any tasks you can do standing up that you could tackle during those eight minutes.
Alan isn’t a fan of standing desks as he says you can’t fix the problems linked with sitting by simply standing more.
“It’s possible to stand too much too,” he says. “And standing is associated with a variety of adverse health problems, including increases in back complaints, varicose veins and problems with the feet.”
And it’s not good for your posture either. “After standing for more than 10 minutes, you’ll start to lean.”
Make sure your workstation is properly set up, says Maria Mackenzie, a body stress release practitioner in Cape Town.
Having attended to numerous clients with back, neck and shoulder pain from sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, Maria gives the following tips to ensure your workstation is set up to avoid muscle strain and resulting tension headaches.
Adjust the height of your chair so your knees are in line with hips or a bit lower.
Your monitor should be at eye level in front of you and an arm’s distance away.
Put your keyboard on the edge of your desk, keeping your elbows in line with your body.
Push your chair in as far as possible so you don’t perch on the edge of it.
Bad posture leads to muscle problems in the back and neck, and it also affects breathing, says Cape Town-based chiroractor Dr Jason Liepner.
“Try this test: take a deep breath while leaning forward, as you would in your desk chair. Let it out, then sit upright and take another breath. It’s obvious which allows more oxygen intake.” Maria suggests this posture checklist: Sit back into the chair with your feet flat on the floor, your spine in a neutral state and your neck in line with your spine.
Your lower back should have a slight hollow and your shoulders should be down and relaxed.