The New Health Epidemic: Sitting Disease

Emerging research points to many negative effects of too much sitting—including lower back pain and potential complications like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Here are ways to stand and move more during the workday.

See Work Ergonomics: Minimize Back Injuries

Sitting disease and poor ergonomics at work An ergonomic workspace can help keep you from experiencing Sitting Disease.
See
Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

Standing also helps reduce stress on the discs in your lower back. If you have lumbar degenerative disc disease or other lower back problems, reducing the load on your discs can over time help alleviate your pain.

See Back Care for Lower Back Pain

Here are several suggestions of how to improve your low back pain—and your overall health—by sitting less during each day:

Stand up every 20 minutes

  • Simply standing up engages your large lower back and leg muscles, which in turn encourages nourishing blood flow throughout your body. This simple act will reduce low back pain, muscle stiffness, and increase your energy throughout the day.
  • Figure out the best way to remind yourself to stand up. For example, you can download an alarm onto your computer or mobile phone that rings every 20 minutes, or chunk up your work into 20-minute segments and take a brief stand-up break between.
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Standing Hamstring StretchThe standing hamstring stretch can be done easily in the office.
Watch:
Standing Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video

Stretch while you're standing

The seated position tends to shorten your hamstring muscles (in the back of each thigh) and the muscles and soft tissues around your hips. Keeping your hand on the computer mouse and keyboard also stiffens up your shoulder joint. Even a few stretches throughout the day will go a long way to keep your muscles and soft tissues from stiffening up.

See Easy Hamstring Stretches

Create a stand up desk area

A number of studies who the benefits of working at a standup desk, even if only for part of the day. Here are several ideas for how to get started working while standing:

  • Sit-to-stand desks are also growing in popularity, giving you flexible options throughout the day. If you don't mind the expense, these products give you the most flexibility and can be customized to your height and workstyle.
  • See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

  • For less money, you can make your own standup desk by just using a standup desk converter—a desktop addition that serves to provide you with a raised work surface.
  • See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

  • While standing, be sure to pay attention to where your monitor is—your head should be level while looking at your monitor. Looking down at a laptop screen for extended periods places excessive strain on your neck muscles and can lead to cervical degenerated discs and/or early onset of arthritis.
  • See Workplace Ergonomics and Neck Pain

  • At first, you may want to only stand for 1 to 2 hours each day to allow your muscles to get used to the new arrangement. Or you may prefer alternating between standing and sitting instead of standing for long periods at a time.
  • See Office Chair: Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

  • To make sure you stand, assign an activity like phone or email time to standing only, or download a free alarm or put one in your mobile phone to remind you when to switch to a standing position while you work.
  • While you're sitting, be sure to follow recommended guidelines for how to set up your office chair and computer to minimize strain on your lower back, neck, wrists and shoulders.

Walk throughout your day

Don't work out only while you're at the gym; instead, try to walk as much as possible throughout the day. Walking provides many benefits, including increasing your body's natural pain-reducing hormones—your endorphins. For example:

  • Schedule one meeting each day that you do while walking
  • Walk throughout your office building in 5 to 10 minute increments; incorporate walking up and down stairs if you can
  • Consider using a device that tracks your steps throughout each day—this can be an inexpensive pedometer that you keep in your pocket (about $5) or a more expensive Fitbit or other wearable device.
  • Consider starting a walking club on our forum and keep each other motivated

    See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

Take the first steps to living a healthier lifestyle by committing to stand and move a little more every day. Even small changes add up over time and can make a big difference. The key is to get started today!

How will standing more change your life?

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References

  1. Ebraheim, Nabil A. MD Nachemson AL Disc Pressure Measurements Spine 1981
  2. "Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults." Alpa V. Patel, Leslie Bernstein, Anusila Deka, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Peter T. Campbell, 5 Susan M. Gapstur, Graham A. Colditz, and Michael J. Thun. Am J Epid Published online July 22, 2010.
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