Is sitting the new smoking?

Photo credit: estherase on Flickr

Photo credit: estherase on Flickr

It’s a topic we’ve heard in the news lately – how too much sitting can lead to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dying prematurely.

This Globe and Mail news story is one of many that describes the harmful effects of “sitting all day” at computers, while commuting, and at home.

This lack of movement not only leads to back and neck pain, but also affects us on a chemical level, as sugars and toxins build up in in our tensed, unmoving muscles.

In response to this “build-up” in our muscles, our bodies create more insulin, which can make us feel tired – like a “sugar crash.”

The 20-20-20 rule for desk workers

“Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second stretch break and look 20 feet away,” says Emma Christensen, a corporate ergonomist.

Emma and her team at WorkSafeBC’s Health and Wellness Department are promoting their 20-20-20 rule to desk workers.

“The best solution is to move,” she said.

“Movement stretches muscle that has been contracted, holding a static posture. It increases blood flow, which takes waste products from those muscles back to the heart, and the heart gets pumping and sends oxygen back to those muscles. That prevents you from getting tired more quickly. It reduces discomfort and there’s less chance of injury.”

Desk workers can benefit from any amount of movement and there are “stretch prompter” apps and programs that work for some.

“Get up and answer the phone. Get up and stretch. Sit right back down. You’re not really leaving,” Emma says. “I know people feel they can’t because they’re busy and they’re at their desk. But that little bit – if you do it regularly enough – will help. As your body gets used to that movement, you’ll start to crave it.”

Adjust your chair – then get out of it regularly

How to Make Your Computer Workstation Fit You from WorkSafeBC is a good starting point – and so is Desk Job: Position For Safety and Comfort from CCOHS but the moving around part is critical as well.

“The real problem – unless they have pre-existing problems with their lumbar spine – is static sitting and not getting up and moving around,” Emma said, describing how improper seating can add to the problem by putting the neck and back into awkward positions.

Thanks to Emma – and I hope these ideas bring relief to those who need it!

Share this safety message:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *