Historically speaking, the human body was designed for hunting and gathering. In contrast, contemporary work life often requires many of us to sit sedentary at a desk for hours on end. Our bodies have not evolved at the same accelerated pace of technology- endless sitting at a desk is not healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, studies show that sitting for a prolonged period of time produces a variety of negative health issues such as premature mortality, chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. Additionally, it is quite common for sedentary workers to experience neck and back pain as a result of sitting for a large portion of the day. To make matters worse, even an hour of daily exercise is not enough to offset the damage done by endless sitting. Is there a solution to this problem without changing professions?
If you are in a sedentary job, consider the following throughout the day:
- If you can stand, don’t sit.
- If you can walk, don’t stand.
- If you can perform a task manually instead of using a machine, do it.
Additionally, it is possible to improve your health by taking a five minute break each hour to stretch and move your body (which also relieves your strained eyes). Orthopedic surgeons recommend the following exercises to help your body if you have a desk job:
1. Sit and Stand
Stand up and down from your chair without using your hands repeatedly (a perfect exercise if you’re on the phone).
2. Shoulder Shrug
Shrug your shoulders up while inhaling. Hold. Release and exhale. Repeat three times.
3. Yes and No Neck
Slowly shake your neck in a no, no, no direction. You can add some comic relief by asking yourself entertaining questions: “Are my boss’s jokes funny?” (mental stress relief is just as important as physical).
Next, Slowly nod your head in a yes, yes, yes direction.
4. Round your Rear
Tighten and squeeze your buttocks and hold for ten seconds. Release. Repeat 6-8 times.
5. Relieve your Hands
Clench your fists and hold them both out in front of you. Circle them in one direction while counting to ten. Do the same in reverse. Shake them out.
6. Finger Point (benefits your hands, wrists, and forearms)
Stretch one hand out and point your fingers downward toward the ground. Use your other hand to gently pull them toward your body to deepen the stretch. Do the same with the opposite hand.
Next, stretch one hand out and point your fingers to the sky. Use your other hand to gently push your fingers toward your body. Do the same with the opposite hand.
7. Twist your Torso
Inhale deeply and as you exhale, twist your torso to the right and grab the back of your chair seat with your left hand. Use your eyes to see how far you can look to the side of the room. Hold. Slowly return to forward position and do the same on the other side.
8. Leg Extensions
Grab the seat of your chair and stretch both of your legs out in front of you with legs parallel to the ground. Point and flex your toes 5 times. Release and then repeat.
9. Extend your Arms
Stretch one arm out straight in front of you. Use your other hand to grab your elbow and pull the extended arm across your chest. Hold. Release and then repeat with the other arm.
10. Look Up
Stretch your arms up toward the sky and interlock your fingers. Turn your palms upward toward the sky as you tilt your chin up and tilt your head back toward the sky too. Inhale and exhale then release.
It is critical to be mindful of your posture if you’re seated for long periods of time. Proper posture while seated and standing will help to mitigate back and neck pain- plus it’s more attractive. There are many sources online to learn how to sit and stand with correct posture. If you have any concerns or questions about having the correct posture or performing stretches, please consult with a physician. From my desk to yours, I wish you health and wellness!
Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy. Wall Street Journal. July 2012.
Sitting for Too Long is Bad for Your Health. WebMD.com. March 2012.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.