Is your office chair affecting your health?
“We’re a society that wants to be sedentary,” says Vicki Greenberg, a registered nurse practitioner and nursing program instructor at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus. “We sit and watch TV, look at our computers, play video games. And we spend an awful lot of time in our office chairs.”
But all these hours of sitting can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. The longer we stay seated, Greenberg explains, the fewer calories we burn and the more fat our body stores. “The result,” she notes, “is that we’re carrying around more fat, which puts a strain on our skeletal structure, and our heart especially.”
The good news, she says, is that you can help offset some of the ill effects of sitting for long periods by employing these five simple techniques:
Walk throughout the day.
“Get up and walk around the office at least once every hour,” Greenberg suggests. “Optimally, you’d be setting a timer and getting up every 20 or 30 minutes to make a complete lap around the office, or even just your own workspace.”
Move while you sit.
If you are too busy to get up regularly, you can stretch in your chair. “Do some leg raises, some arm stretches,” Greenberg recommends. “Bend from side to side. Turn your head right and left. Get your blood circulating.
“Most of us spend more time sitting in a chair at work than we spend asleep in bed,” she adds. “Sleeping is good for you, but sitting too long may not be.”
Use the right chair.
Seated exercises depend on the sitter having a proper chair, Greenberg points out. “Bad office chairs are to chiropractors what candy is to dentists,” she notes. “So getting a chair designed for a physically active sitter is important.”
Check yours out. Does it allow you to bend all the way to one side? To lift your legs? To lean way back? These, she says, are the properties your chair needs to have so you can do exercises in your seat.
A chair that braces your back is paramount, Greenberg emphasizes, as is one with a headrest. “All parts of your body should be either at rest or well-supported. Armrests should allow elbows to rest at 90-degree angles. And your chair height should be adjustable, so you’re always looking directly into the middle of your computer screen, and not down into it.”
Work while standing.
Greenberg says the best desk to work at has yet to catch on in many companies: one that requires you to stand rather than sit. “It offers all the benefits of standing and moving,” she says, but “standing all day means wearing the correct shoes. Spike-heeled pumps look nice, but they counteract the whole purpose of a standing desk.”