Dana Knight has an interesting article in the Indianapolis Star (Longer Hours In The Chair Can Be A Pain In The Anatomy), discussing the dangers of sitting all day. “You’re holding a position all day long that is static. You’re forced into a position that doesn’t fit your body shape. Sit too long, and you’ll find your body giving signals.”
“Nine out of 10 office workers, anchored to their desks for most of the day, report end-of-workday aches, pain and fatigue. It’s not that sitting itself causes harm. But holding that position over time is detrimental, causing repetitive strain injury.”
The article offers some specific suggestions for combatting the strain of sitting:
- Use a rolled towel or small pillow to support your lower back. Remove it every half hour for five minutes to give your back a change of position.
- Position your head so that your ear is in a line with your shoulder and your chin is parallel with the floor.
- Avoid leaning to one side and avoid overstuffed furniture.
- Pull your chair close to the desk.
- When you lean forward at your desk, bend at the hips instead of rounding your lower back. This keeps your back aligned.
A lot of this is simply a matter of maintaining good posture – sitting up straight instead of slouching or leaning to one side. Of course, good posture is not so easy. I struggle with slouching, and I tend to lean to one side over time. But when I am able to maintain a good posture, I can feel the difference, and am usually able to work longer and with less pain, than when I slouch.
A decent office chair is also a good investment in your health. I don’t have a high-end chair, but it’s fairly adjustable. I do use the pillow trick, and it helps a lot in keeping me from slouching. A chair with adjustable lumbar support is a cleaner, though more expensive, option.
The other thing that helps a lot is to stand up and walk around. If your typical workday is very sedentary, force yourself to take frequent breaks (an exercise-reminder program helps a lot here), where you walk and stretch. If you’re not using a software program to remind you to take a break, a simple way to do this is to use a small water glass – fill it up, drink as you work, and when its empty, get up to fill it (and/or to use the restroom). Don’t use too large of a glass, or if you do, don’t fill it too full. The point here is to give yourself a reason to get up and move around.