On top of increased sedentary working patterns, statistics show that Europeans spend on average 40% of their leisure time sitting down – and this figure is even higher in the US and Australia. Worryingly, a recent study in scientific journal the Lancet found that inactivity alone is a major contributor to diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
Inactivity is also a major cause of musculoskeletal (back and joint) pain. This may not seem like a widespread problem, but did you know that 4 out of 5 adults experience back pain at some point in their lives? There’s also a strong link between back pain and mental wellbeing. And there’s no need to suffer - simple steps can be taken to prevent back and joint pain, and at the same time improve overall health and wellbeing.
Have a break
Take regular breaks from sitting or standing still – for every hour spent sitting, have at least five minutes of activity (ideally getting some fresh air if possible). This will also help to keep your mind clear and focused.
Check out your workstation
If you can have an ergonomic assessment that’s ideal (someone will check the position of your computer, height of your chair etc). But if this isn’t possible check the following; the middle of your computer screen should be slightly lower than eye level, your wrists and forearms parallel to your desk when typing, and your knees and hips at a right angle or slightly less when sitting with feet flat on the floor.
Avoid sitting with your legs crossed as this can reduce circulation in the legs and back to the heart. Place feet flat on the floor and always sit with shoulders and hips parallel to your desk and computer. Try not to slouch – think of drawing your navel towards your spine, sitting with shoulders drawn back and down and sitting up tall. If you struggle with this, a small backrest behind the lower back can help.
Remember, back and muscular pain is not something you have to suffer in silence – if you think your working situation may be affecting your health, speak to your manager about your concerns and there may be simple steps you can both take to make positive changes.
Written by Ruth Tongue