women

The fit don't sit

Taking the 'we're not designed to sit' ethos into scientific territory, a study began in 1982 monitoring 7,744 Australian men between the ages of 20 and 89 over a 20-year period. The full article can be bought and read at tinyurl.com/standingstudy, or you can access the conclusion for free via the same link. An extract from that conclusion reads: “Health promotion efforts targeting physically inactive men should emphasize both reducing sedentary activity and increasing regular physical activity for optimal cardiovascular health". Although the study focused on men, it's doubtful the benefits of being less sedentary are gender specific.

Peripheral vision

Posture and the general positioning of your frame is a crucial thing to take into consideration when it comes to PC use. Your spine and legs are obviously of the utmost importance in keeping you upright, so looking after them and investigating any pain, tension and discomfort is important. However, there are other risk factors, and other parts of the body that need looking after.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is the number one thing we think of when we consider pain and injury in every day computer use. Also referred to as upper limb disorder (ULD), repetitive movement disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) and occupational overuse syndrome (OOS), it tends to amount to the same thing in PC users: pain attributed to overuse of specific parts of the upper body engaged in computer-related activity

Description: Microsoft's long-standing ergonomic keyboard
Microsoft's long-standing ergonomic keyboard

Of course, the best thing to do if you experience any such pain or unusual sensations is to see your GP or another health professional to reduce the risk of further pain and long-term issues. If prevention isn't possible, avoidance should be the aim. Resting, taking breaks and exercises suggested by a health professional are a good idea. There are also a few other things to think about.

Self-assess

The government wants to keep us happy at work (no comment), and one of the links from the earlier mentioned direct.gov site has tips on “sitting in the right position and improving your workspace". This links to an NHS web page entitled 'How to sit correctly'. Debates on whether 'sitting correctly' is possible aside, the NHS provides common sense advice including the following: support your back, your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor (take note laptop users), your knees should be level with your hips, your forearms and wrists should be straight and level, and your feet should be flat on the floor or supported.

Description:  Tasty wrist support
Tasty wrist support

There's more in-depth information, but the take away is that if it feels unnatural, then it probably is. Of course, keeping your forearms and wrists straight when using your average keyboard isn't the easiest thing unless you have no need for any of the keys in the middle, but the advice is best kept to if possible. And besides, there's no shortage of products designed to help you out.

Floored

Footstools or footrests aren't common in the office in my experience, but they certainly should be. People sit in weird positions in chairs, and with the amount of time we sit in them (wait while I get up and stretch), we're inclined to keep moving our legs and feet into odd positions to try to be comfortable. The temptation to cross legs, tuck them under your chair and try all manner of other positions is big. You might think you don't know what to do with your feet to get comfortable, but putting them flat on the floor is a start, and occasionally moving them to ensure good circulation is worth doing. If that's not for you, investing in a footrest might be a good idea.

Description: Kensington Duo keyboard rest
Kensington Duo keyboard rest

The reported benefits are improved posture and circulation, both of which are fairly important. In the first instance, if you feel tension at the back of your legs and have your feet flat on the floor, a footrest will lift the toes, relieving pressure. In the second, a rocking footrest will encourage blood circulation and is believed to help decrease the chance of blood clots which, though rare, increases when we remain sedentary.

There's a good range of footrests available, and a quick search of Amazon brings up three likely candidates: Kensington's Sole mate plus is $31, and its Sole massage is $58. The Sole massage should stimulate your feet, but if that seems a little too high a price, you can currently pick up the Fellowes Smart Suites Standard Foot Rocker for $36. The Foot Rocker looks like a footrest on secured wheels, but the majority of users seem happy with the results.

However, even if you do get one, it's important that footrests shouldn't be thought of as a reason to sit for longer than usual. They exist to reduce the tension in your legs when you do sit, but the best thing is to sit a little less, and at least take those hourly breaks!

“If it feels unnatural, then it probably is”

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