Research has shown that sitting for prolonged periods can be extremely detrimental to a person’s health, leading some to call sitting the new cancer. Regularly being seated for several hours per day without breaks can lead to health problems including heart attack, diabetes, and stroke, with experts reporting that people who spend most of their time sitting are at 147% greater risk of a heart attack or stroke than people who spend more time standing or moving.
Sitting is also an ergonomic hazard. Employees who sit in front of a computer for hours at a time report experiencing many forms of discomfort and pain, with the shoulders and upper back, neck, elbow, forearm, wrists, hand, muscles between the shoulder blades, and lower back as the most common areas of complaint. Fortunately, many methods exist to decrease pain and discomfort and improve the employee’s overall wellness. Ergonomic solutions such as office chairs to match your body size and desk, adjusting the height of your chair, and the way you sit in the chair can have a significant impact on pain reduction, as can adopting an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. An ergonomic perspective can help workers adjust their body mechanics, shifting from a C-shaped posture with weight on the tailbone to sitting instead with your pelvis vertical to the ground. This is a more neutral posture that will help mitigate pain and discomfort from sitting for long periods.
- Sit in the chair with your pelvis vertical. Bend from your hips and place your buttocks toward the back of the seat as you sit down. Watch for more ergonomic tips
- To stabilize your body as you move into the chair, keep your feet staggered, with one slightly under you at the edge of the chair and the other farther forward. Your feet should be several inches apart.
- Lean forward in the chair by hinging at your hips. Tuck your chin if you need to look down at your desk.
- Your elbows should be at your side, with your arms bent at 90-120 degrees over the keyboard.
- This usually means you need to move the chair closer to the desk and the keyboard toward the front edge of the desk. Watch for more ergonomic tips
- The mousepad and mouse will also need to be close to the edge of your desk so your elbow makes circles at your side as you move the mouse.
- Your wrists should never be higher than your elbows. Adjust your chair height if needed.
- Do not cock your wrists. Hold your mouse loosely.
- If you have normal vision, your monitor should be positioned roughly 1/3 above eye level and 2/3 below.
If you are wearing bifocals or progressive lenses, lower your monitor until you can focus clearly on it with your head in a neutral position. Tilting the lower edge of the screen toward you can make the screen easier to see.
The goal is to sit in a relaxed, neutral position as much as possible while you work at your desk. Take micro-breaks frequently—every 15-30 minutes is good, whether you’re just standing and moving for a minute, getting a drink, standing in place and lifting your legs alternating side to side, etc. Other examples can be found at www.wikihow.com/Take-Breaks-at-Work.
If you can, mix up your routine by doing some of your daily work sitting and some standing.
Remember: sitting for long periods has been proven to have adverse health effects in the long term.