The Why and How Behind Working After A Computer
We have evolved over millions of years to run, lift, squat, push, pull and move in a large variety of ways. Only recently, have we had to start sitting down hours per day, week, in front of our phones and laptops. It goes against our very design, what our bodies are made to do, and as a result creates a lot of aches and discomfort, as well as lasting changes in our posture and how well we can move and do other activities of daily living.
So what can you do? Most likely you do have to keep on seating in front of your desk for the many years to come, but that does not mean you should be in a constant state of pain and tightness, or that you will be. It is all about balance, for every negative action, state, your body is placed into, there is an opposite positive action that you may take to counteract its effects.
In the following blog posts we will be discussing which actions you may take to improve your overall posture, how you feel, and how well your body functions.
The first section, which we will be discussing below, is going to be to about explaing the why and how of proper desk posture.
Step 0: What is the problem with sitting down, or standing up the whole day?
Step 1: Discussing alternative ways of working. Of course, a standard chair and desk are not the only ways to work behind your desk, there are a variety of alternatives.
The second post will be discussing proper workplace ergonomics, why and how you should sit and your computer should be set-up.
Finally, in the third blog post we will be discussing what you can do to physically help your body, how to balance out structural imbalances in your spine and posture, which muscles to strengthen and stretch, as well as which exercises to perform.
Step 0: Why is sitting down bad for you?
Sitting is a natural and healthy position in itself, the problems come from immobility, lack of movement and sub-optimal posture maintained over prolonged periods of time.
There are a number of postural muscles surrounding your spine and pelvis. During prolonged periods of inactivity- i.e. when you are slouching for 20 minutes or more, those muscles shut down. It then takes them upwards to 1h or more to resume functioning properly once you start moving again! And what happens when those muscles are not able to stabilize your spine? The joints, discs, cartilage and ligaments surrounding your spine take the toll… Additionally, other surrounding muscles start to over-compensate in an effort to reduce the amount of stress placed on your spine, but as those are not designed to function this way for long, they become tight, stretched out or shortened abnormally, and hurt. Those are usually the muscles that create your symptoms, but they are also never the true source of the problem. We will cover those muscles in the following blog posts and what you can do about them.
Step 1: How should I work?
Optimally, you will not have “one” working position or posture. Of course, as said above it is important to have proper desk ergonomics, which we will cover later, but if possible, changing in between seating and standing should be your priority. Try to alternate, a half day seating, a half day standing, or a few hours at a time to start with. The goal is to avoid being stationary for long periods of time!
This is where frequent breaks are also extremely important, and why working at home often becomes more of an issue. No more coffee room chats or short walks with the colleagues, we begin seating down the whole day! Set yourself reminders to move, stretch, walk around even if it is only a few minutes at a time, aim to move at least once every half hour. The stretches below are a good starting point:
Aim to do those movements a couple of days a day, wake up those muscles, loosen up those joints!
It might be difficult for some to work standing up, but if possible make the time to set up your desk a bit higher, or use a few books to stack your laptop or monitor screen higher. Standing laptop tables can also be found online, some to put onto your desk, others a single unit, they are a worthwhile investment and usually not very expensive.
Another tip you might want to consider is to seat down on a swiss ball instead of a chair. As the ball moves you have to keep active to stabilize yourself, it is a good way to keep your muscles awake and fired up. You can also try what is called a “wobble cushion”, you can find plenty online for less than 15 euros. They are less functional than a swiss ball but will also provide some of its benefits.
In the following blog post we will be talking about proper workplace ergonomics!