I think we would all agree, technology is a wonderful thing. However, like all good things, it comes at a price. Students and workers alike are suffering from the many physical effects of sitting for too many hours. Studies show the impact of prolonged sitting, especially with proper posture, are multifaceted; pain, headaches, vision problems, poor concentration, excess fat storage with weight gain. Studies strongly support the use of using good posture, ergonomic workstations, posture stretches, frequent changes of positions, including the use of standing desks to prevent pain and injury. In fact, standing desks are not a new invention; they have been used by many to promote health and stimulate thought…Hemingway, Franklin and Jefferson all stood while they worked.
The average head weighs 10 to 12 pounds and when tilted down at a 45 degree angle the forces of gravity are multiplied by 5. While reading, studying or working on the computer with poor posture, one must support 50 or more pounds of pressure on the neck, middle and lower back for hours on end. It is no wonder why this activity is associated with headaches, neck and back pain, numbness and tingling in arms and legs, muscle spasms etc. Some studies report the lifetime prevalence of neck and shoulder pain in office workers as high as 80%.
Recent research has also correlated the amount of time an individual sits to a decrease in their average life expectancy. Seriously, watching television and sitting is literally killing us. The Heart and Diabetes Institute of Australia conducted extensive research on sedentary behavior, including a review of almost one million people. They used actuary science, adjusted for smoking, waist circumference, and diet and exercise habits to assess the specific effects that the hours of sitting in a day impacts a person’s life span. They found that sitting too long results in a decrease in muscle contraction of the big leg muscles and because these unused muscles need less fuel, more unused glucose (fuel) is stored in the muscle. High glucose levels result in high blood sugar, which leads to adult onset diabetes and other health issues.
The deleterious effects of sitting in children have also come under scrutiny and it may impact the classroom. Due to technology, today’s classroom is more advanced in many ways. However, the traditional hard chair and desk remain unchanged. Not only are these, “one size fits all,” desks uncomfortable, current research suggests that they may also limit learning.
Recent studies show that standing desks promote not only a physically healthier child by expending more calories and lowering obesity, but also improves focus and concentration to improve academic outcomes.
Research from Texas A&M Health Science Center found two landmark things about children who worked at standing desks such as Stand2LearnR (www.stand2learn.com), when compared to those seated: One, children burned more calories and obese children burned more than normal-weight peers. Two, children were more attentive in the classroom and engaged more with their teacher and their work when allowed to stand. Teachers in the study not only found the results to be favorable for fidgety, high-energy kids, but those who tend to be overweight and tired benefited greatly.
Researchers were quick to point out that there may be many ways to promote movement and limit sitting in the classroom that may also promote learning in a healthy way such as sitting on exercise balls or inflatable discs.
The average office worker sits for more than 10 hours per day between office work, sitting at lunch, checking email and social media at home. Amazingly, studies suggest that even vigorous exercise before and after work cannot overcome the damage from prolonged sitting. New products such as the “TrekDeskR," (www.trekdesk.com) allows a worker to work on a computer, phone, or do paperwork, while walking on a treadmill, has great health value. Also, other products such as VariDeskR (www.varidesk.com), allows for frequent positional changes from sitting to standing while working. Even without using a standing desk, changing positions, such as standing during phone calls or meetings has proven to be valuable.
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
Spine problems can be prevented with good posture and proper body mechanics. Poor posture and improper body mechanics subject the spine to abnormal stresses that, over time, can lead to degeneration and pain. Good posture and proper body mechanics and frequent changes in positions, can minimize current spine pain and prevent recurrent episodes. Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity. Good posture involves positions that place the least amount of stress on the spine. Good posture maintains the spine in a “neutral” position. In a neutral spine, the three normal curves are preserved (a small hollow at the base of the neck, a small roundness at the midback and a small hollow in the low back). When viewed from the side, the upper back appears straight with a small hollow in the lower back.