How’s this for a quick motivational speech: Move . . . or Die!
For a wide swath of the modern population, life is dominated by sitting. At work, many of us occupy computer terminals for long hours, then sit on the couch to watch television and play video games in the evening.
The lack of movement is serious health issue — on par with heavy smoking and alcohol use. Immobility accelerates the aging process, promotes obesity and hypertension, and puts us at risk for repetitive use injuries related to keyboarding.
The past three decades have seen a dramatic increase in the rate of obesity in the U.S. – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; www.cdc.gov) says 34.9% of adults in the U.S. are classified as obese, and the estimated annual medical cost of obesity is upwards of $147 billion. Further, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) show that musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, tendinitis, and others related to heavy computer use, account for 70 million physician office visits annually.
Bodies are built to MOVE!
Despite extensive research in ergonomics and improved designs for technology products, the health problems continue. So how do we battle this trend in the context of our everyday lives? Here are 10 strategies to help promote wellness at a desk job:
1. Sit actively. Change your body position often as you sit. Concentrate on shifting your body weight. Use many small movements, rather than single large ones. Move your legs, shrug shoulders, turn your head, flex your feet, roll your wrists.
2. Get the tools. Request ergonomically sound chairs, keyboards, screen risers, computer mouses and other gear from your employer.
3. Stand up. When possible, stand up! For example, stand while talking on the phone, reading documents, listening to a colleague, etc.
4. Have a ball. Use an inflatable exercise ball as an alternative to a chair.
5. Break time. Get up from your desk every 30 minutes or so and take a walk to the water cooler, to the bathroom, to say hello to a colleague.
6. Breathe better. Focus on your breathing. We take breathing for granted, but most of us don’t get enough oxygen into our bloodstream, causing higher stress levels. Deep breathing techniques are known to lower stress and blood pressure, relax muscles and decrease anxiety.
7. Think posture. Sit up tall, with feet flat on the floor, knees even with hips; position the keyboard close to, and directly in front of, the body;
8. Rock out. If you can, listen to music (or play your own music in your head!) while at your desk, and tap your feet to the beat
9. Isometric system. Contract your abdominal muscles, gluteals, and calves periodically and hold the contraction for 8 seconds.
10. Stretch it out. Stretch hamstrings, chest, calves.
Your challenge: Try one or two items for the next five days, then add another activity and continue the initial ones. Healthy lifestyle is a habit.