The human body simply was not designed to function well during extended periods of sitting. We evolved to walk vast grasslands, stalk our dinner, and glean and harvest from the surrounding countryside. Before the onset of cars, most people had to walk or ride horses to get anywhere.
Very little time was spent sitting on a chair or couch until the last century, when computers made a world full of sedentary desk workers who spend the majority of their days either sitting in front of a computer, or sitting during a commute in a car, bus or train. Most Americans don’t even spend an hour at the gym, instead going home exhausted to sit in front of the television set before laying down to sleep.
Although most of don’t have a lot of choice in our job in front of that computer, we do have a choice in how we set up our workstation, and how often we get up and break up the day with a walk or a stretch.
Desk workers are particularly susceptible to musculoskeletal disorders, and we see many cases of back and neck pain here in the clinic that are a result of improper ergonomics. Proper ergonomics and good posture can go a long way toward reducing the risk of developing neck, shoulder and back pain, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and other desk related physical problems.
A basic proper ergonomic setup means that:
- Your feet should be flat on the floor with knees at a 90 degree angle
- The top of your computer screen should be even with your eyes, and should sit at least 20 inches from your face
- Your shoulders should be relaxed, your wrists in a neutral position to the work surface (whether a keyboard or desk), and elbows at a 90 degree angle
- Your back should be resting against the back of the chair with a lumbar support for the lower spine to keep the natural curve of your spine supported.
In addition to proper ergonomics, simply getting up from your chair to walk around and stretch for 10 minutes or so every half hour can have an enormous impact on how your body responds physiologically. Just a little movement can get the blood pumping more efficiently, help fat break down in the muscles, even lower your risk of heart disease.