By Murray Kovesy
Sedentary lifestyle factors are no doubt affecting our health and fitness and will continue as new technologies are introduced. The body thrives with movement. It isn’t designed to be as inactive as we are.
Whether you have noticed it or not, technology is now deeply integrated into our everyday life, from work to communication and how we interact. Whereas simple tasks were once done manually, today we require only a computer, laptop or mobile to perform them more efficiently and quickly. Like the new generation most of us are becoming somewhat infected by the pandemic that is slowly turning us into technologically reliant zombies.
Although techno-tasks may be more efficient and save time, have you thought about the impact this has on your health and daily habits? How can we harness technology and at the same time use it to improve our health?
Warning: Sitting is a health hazard
Sitting for hours has been compared to smoking as a health risk, and is now associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, liver disease and death from heart disease. Recent articles and statements may seem a little far-fetched in equating sitting with smoking, but the premise and intention does highlight the fact we are sitting for too long and exercising less.
Anup Kanodia, a physician and researcher at the Center for Personalized Health Care at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, is a proponent of the ‘sitting is the new smoking’ research. As evidence, he cites an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that compared the very two. Every hour of television that people watch, presumably while sitting, cuts about 22 minutes from their lifespan, the study’s authors calculated. This was contrasted with a study, which estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.
It is estimated we spend approximately 80% of our day sitting.
It is estimated we spend approximately 80% of our day sitting. If you’re an office worker who spends most of your time at a computer and who also smokes you do need to be aware. It’s great if you love your job so much that you can spend hours absorbed in it. However, it’s not ideal to spend all those hours glued to your chair.
Awareness – a first step to change
Are you aware of your posture at work? At the end of the day do you notice your chin just centimeters from the screen, or your shoulders rounding forward? Perfect posture for the whole day is unrealistic but improving your awareness and breaking your desk time with movement will help in the short and long run.
Here are a few tips to help get you up from your desk and more proactive about your posture:
- Set your workstation ergonomically right from the start. I hear too often that workers move to another workstation without adjusting their seat, desk and computer screen height to suit them.
- Consider a standing desk. If you have low back pain, standing can take pressure off your vertebrae. Also, standing burns more calories throughout the day than sitting.
- Don’t put up with faulty or old equipment. Ask the boss for a new ergonomic chair, mouse or other equipment as needed. Better still ask for an ergonomic assessment of your workstation. Australian Occupational Safety and Health regulations require workplaces to equip staff with a safe working environment, and this includes your workstation.
- Set an alarm or reminder on your phone once every 30 minutes to an hour to get you up and moving. Whether you head for the water cooler, take a toilet break or a walk to the printer, any excuse is a good excuse to get up and move. Apps like Stand upfor Android or Stand Up!for iPhone make sure you don’t let being ‘in the zone’ while working at your desk destroy your health.
- Get a fellow worker to take a photo of you when you are busy working away. Visually seeing your posture can really help your awareness. You may be quite surprised just how poor is your posture.
- If you’re talking on your mobile phone or reading notes, stand up and walk around.
- Perform stretches at the desk of your neck, shoulders, hips and legs. Engage and squeeze your glutes and abs to strengthen.
- Use your lunch break to eat outside and go for a walk. Health centres within easy walking distance may offer lunch-time classes for fitness, yoga or Pilates.
- See a physical therapist to help correct and maintain your posture. They can release imbalances in your muscles and provide corrective stretches and exercises for you.