Many office workers spend more than 8 hours of their day sitting. Sitting puts up to 40% more load on the joints in the spine, involves 2.5x less muscle activity compared to standing and increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Eliminating sedentary jobs and tasks is impractical, however, there are small changes we can implement to help reduce pain, increase productivity and improve overall health outcomes.
- Get your set up right
Regardless of if you have a sitting or a standing workstation, ensuring your equipment is set up to suit your body and space can make a big difference to comfort and function. Many larger companies offer ergonomic assessments to assist you with this. If not, try following our attached guide at the end of this article. Ensuring your chair position is adequately supporting your spine can significantly reduce back and neck pain related to deskwork.
- Start standing
Standing increases the muscle activity in our legs and core, reduces the pressure on our spine, improves our oxygen consumption and increases our metabolism. Over a lifetime of desk work, these changes can have a large impact on our long term health outcomes. Sit-to-stand desks are a great way to incorporate more standing and less sitting throughout your day. We recommend starting with small bursts of standing, and gradually increasing these bursts each week as your body gets used to this change in position
- Move your body
We all know how important exercise is throughout the week. The current national guidelines for physical activity in adults recommends 2.5-5 hours of moderate exercise or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous exercise, along with 2 strength training sessions per week. Meeting these guidelines can be done in very different ways, depending on what you enjoy and what works for your lifestyle. This may include going to the gym, brisk walking or participation in sports. In addition to these requirements, short exercise breaks throughout your working day can help to reduce time spent sitting. This might involve a walk on your lunch break, a stretching break, walking to speak to colleagues instead of calling or emailing, taking the stairs rather than the elevator and standing and walking when taking phone calls.
We hope this information has empowered you to optimise your workstation and keep moving. If you continue to experience back, neck or other joint pain related to sitting, we would be more than happy to assist you with an individualised physiotherapy assessment. Call us on 5442 5044 or book via our website.
Australian Government Department of Health, 2021, ‘Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians’
Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, et al, 2015, ‘Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis’, Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 162, no. 2, pp. 123-132.
Hamilton MT, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, et al 2008, ‘Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New
Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior’, Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep, vol Jul 2, no. 4, pp. 292–298.
Tikkanen O, Haakana P, Pesola AJ, et al 2013, ‘Muscle Activity and Inactivity Periods during Normal Daily Life’, PLoS One, vol. 8, no. 1.