It’s no surprise that sitting for long periods of time isn’t very good for your waistline, but recent studies go even further.
In 2010, a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that the mortality rate of a person sitting for more than six hours per day was 20% higher than that of a person sitting for only three hours per day. More recent studies indicate that remaining seated for too long is associated with double the risk of diabetes, and an increase in both the rate of cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders, even if we practise a sport regularly. Even if we exercise 30 minutes a day, as recommended by doctors, what we do with the remaining 23.5 hours has a significant impact on our health. No wonder experts praise the virtues of working standing up. However, you have to admit that this is not a practical solution for everyone! So, in these circumstances, what can we do to preserve our health when the nature of our work means sitting down for a good part of the day?
Fortunately, experts provide us with a few tips. These consist of adopting a good posture and doing a few simple exercises to keep fit and minimize the risk of health problems:
1. The correct sitting posture
If you often need to sit down to do your job, you should pay attention to your posture:
- Don’t slouch;
- Keep your shoulders relaxed;
- Keep your arms close to your body, elbows bent at a 90 ° angle;
- Make sure that your lower back is pressed against the backrest of the chair, if not, do place a small cushion; and
- Place your feet flat on the floor.
2. Office equipment
The seat depth should be adjustable, because you need to leave a gap between the edge of the chair and the hollow of the knee in order not to constrict blood circulation. Similarly, the back of the chair should have adjustable lumbar reinforcement. If necessary, place a cushion behind the hollow of your back.
As your feet should be flat, you should also be able to adjust the height of your chair.
In order to avoid pressing down on your wrists, the keyboard should not be raised. Your fingers should come naturally on top of your keyboard.
The computer screen
The screen should be located right in front of you at the same level as your eyes. In other words, your screen should be neither too high nor too low to avoid neck pain and stiffness. Ideally, it should be 20 degrees below your line of sight.
The screen brightness and colours
To avoid eyestrain, you should reduce the brightness of the screen and choose a font that is easy to read such as Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, size 12. Some colours are particularly not advisable, such as yellow on a green background, because of their vibrating effect on the eyes.
3. Some useful exercises
An article in the Washington Post, dated January 20, 2014, offers a few simple exercises recommended by four scientists:
Another article in the same newspaper, dated September 6, 2011, provides 12 additional exercises you can fit into your work day. Click on this link to view the exercises. You can even print a poster showing all the exercises by clicking on this second link. However, unless you work from home, you’d better be sure not to be disturbed, because it may be a tad embarrassing! As a general rule, it is advisable to move about as much as possible during the day. Simply getting up from your chair to go for a walk several times a day can be beneficial.
In addition, avoid eating while working at your computer. I know, it is easier said than done, especially when there are tight deadlines to meet… However you will be more productive if you eat away from your office, even if it means simply going out for half an hour. There’s nothing better to clear your head, help you unwind and give you a boost of energy!
Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults (American Journal of Epidemiology) – 2010
The Health Hazards of Sitting (Washington Post) – 20 janvier 2014
A Workout at Work? (Washington Post) – 2011
Pourquoi accorder tant d’importance au travail en position assise? (Centre canadien d’hygiène et de sécurité au travail)
Travail sur écran et vision (Service de Santé au Travail de Cambrai) – 2011
Rester assis est dangereux pour la santé : voici la bonne posture à adopter au travail (Le Plus) – 30 janvier 2014
Rester assis devant son ordinateur est dangereux pour la santé (même pour les sportifs) (Atlantico) – 23 novembre 2013
Étude. Rester assis trop longtemps augmente les risques de diabète, maladies cardiovasculaires et de mort prématurée (Huffpost) – 7 décembre 2012