February 10, 2021 | Alberta
If you’re sitting at your desk right now, you might be increasing your risk of serious health problems. As shocking as that sounds, lots of evidence has emerged that spending long periods glued to your chair is bad for you.
In particular, the Mayo Clinic says research has found links between sitting and increased blood sugar, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol, and even worse.
“Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer,” the Mayo Clinic says.
As a busy student, and perhaps a future office worker, it’s difficult to avoid sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Emails, digital documents, and video meetings demand your attention throughout the day.
While you might not be able to eliminate the need to be seated at your workstation, here are some simple ways to protect your health.
Ever find yourself slumped forward after a long day staring at your computer screen? You might need to be more mindful of your posture.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends sitting in what’s called a balanced body position. That means, for example, keeping your legs bent at 90 degrees, not twisting back and forth, and not hunching.
But don’t take it too far and get frozen in place.
“No one seating position can remain comfortable over a long period of time. For this reason, multiple positions in which the body can be in the neutral position are recommended,” says the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
No matter how much you move your mouse or type on your keyboard, you can’t make up for the lack of physical activity that comes with being desk-bound.
ParticipACTION has some practical advice to overcome this sedentary rut: find opportunities to stay active – even small ones. For example, hold some meetings while going for a walk, skip the elevator and take the stairs, and take little breaks to walk around.
Basically, take some literal steps in the right direction.
In the classic film the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man character becomes rusted and stuck in place when he doesn’t oil his joints. It’s a lesson that we humans can learn from, too. Harvard Medical School notes that long periods of sitting can cause muscles and joints to get stiff, leading to discomfort or pain.
“Overly tight hip flexors and hamstrings affect gait and balance, making activities like walking harder and perhaps even setting you up for a fall. Plus, tight hip flexors and hamstrings may contribute to lower back pain and knee stiffness, scourges that many people suffer with every day,” says Harvard Medical School.
While you can hold off on the oil, Harvard Medical School does advise sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair, making phone calls while standing up, and using an adjustable sit-stand desk.
To Sum Up
It’s scary to think that something as mundane as working at your computer could lead to serious health problems. But research shows that sitting at a desk for long stretches is not good for you.
Thankfully, as mentioned above, there are plenty of changes you can make to help prevent pain or illness. Many of these tips can also be applied whether you are on campus or if you’re taking courses remotely.
Remember to stay focused on your body position, how much you’re moving, and the health of your muscles and joints. Please also note, for individual health guidance, talk with a medical professional.
What do you already do to stay healthy at your desk? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.