If you haven’t read the recent article, "He Who Sits the Most Dies the Soonest," which reported the results of an Australian study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, sitting too much is often not good for your health.
Prolonged sitting may lead to cumulative trauma disorder, an injury to bodily soft tissues, such as tendons or muscles, due to repetitious movements, postures, or external forces. Some people with cumulative trauma disorder sit at least 8 to 10 hours per day. The key to successfully improving health is physical rehabilitation – improving one’s work-site ergonomics and postural awareness and habits, taking breaks from prolonged sitting activity, regular exercise, and proper hydration and nutrition.
When considering ergonomics, the goal is to make sure your work station is safe and arranged in a way that makes it possible to sit and move with good postural alignment. This may involve purchasing equipment such as specialty chairs, headsets, notepad or laptop docking stations, articulating keyboard trays, document/book stands, adjustable height work stations, etc. There is no common solution, and each individual's job tasks, stature, and orthopedic conditions need to be considered by a physical therapist.
People who sit throughout the majority of their day, should also undergo postural and body mechanics training so that they know how to sit and use equipment properly. This will help to minimize stress on any current ailments and reduce the risk of developing new injuries. The goal is always to maintain the best spinal alignment while the body is at rest and to keep upper and lower extremity joints in what is referred to as “comfortable mid-range alignment.”
If you do sit too much, a physical therapist can help you to create a plan for a healthier day at your desk. Consider the following tips for avoiding the perils of sitting too much:
- Take regular 1- to 2-minute breaks at least every 30 to 45 minutes from prolonged static positioning, such as sitting.
- Put an alarm on your computer to remind you to take breaks.
- Drink water every time you take a break.
- A few simple stretches and/or postural strengthening exercises with a resistive exercise band will help to treat muscular imbalances and maintain circulation to the spine and extremities.
- Walk when you can. A simple walk around the office is useful for improving circulation during the workday if you can’t find time to walk at lunch or before or after work.
- Get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet. Both are key to reducing stress and managing chronic injuries and weight, which are common problems observed in those who sit for long periods of time. Exercising at least three days per week for at least 30 minutes each time helps individuals achieve a more comfortable, happy and healthy lifestyle. As always, consult with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. In addition to your present health condition, past and present orthopedic injuries and medications help to determine the duration and intensity at which you exercise.
Courtesy of Kristen Schott, PT, MPT, a physical therapist with Saint Peter’s Sports Medicine Institute in Somerset, New Jersey, part of the Saint Peter’s Healthcare System. The therapists at Saint Peter's Sports Medicine Institute have the educational background, specialty training, and experience to provide individualized care to treat physical conditions resulting from illness or injury that impact mobility, functional ability and quality of life.