In recent years, media outlets have described prolonged sitting as the new smoking. This may seem like a stretch but once you break that statement down it carries some truth. Cigarettes were not thought to be the cause of lung cancer and other serious diseases until the 1950s. Like the cigarette industry in the 1920s, the effects of prolonged sitting throughout the workday has largely been ignored and understudied until recent years.
To gain further insight on this workplace epidemic, our own Dr. Travis Fahey, PT, DPT of Pro Staff Physical Therapy Center in Nutley, NJ, explains why prolonged sitting is a problem and what we can do to correct our posture while sitting at the desk and tips to increase physical activity while at work.
From the commute to work, to the office chair and then the couch at home, people are spending more time seated than ever, and research shows that is wreaking havoc on our bodies. A 2014 study by the American Heart Association involving over 84,000 participants, aged 45-69, found that men who spend five or more hours a day sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than men who sit less than two hours a day outside work.1 The American Physical Therapy Association recommends two to four hours of standing and light activity during the workday.2
Proper Posture for Sitting at Your Desk:
Set your desk chair so your feet are flat on the floor, your knees equal to, or slightly lower than your hips with your hips pushed as far back as possible. Support your upper and lower back with a rolled towel and adjust the back of your chair to about a 100-degree reclined angle. Your computer screen should be directly in front of you, with the top of the screen positioned approximately 2-3 inches above eye level and sit at an arm’s length away from the screen. Lastly, if possible adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed.
We can discuss ergonomics until we’re blue in the face, but even the most perfectly set workstation will not protect your body from the prolonged, static postures that most jobs “demand.” Take a break every 20-30 minutes, do a lap around the office, jog up a few flights of stairs, walk to get lunch, stretch, do whatever you can to add some movement into your nine-to-five. Small changes each day can help prevent the harmful effects of prolonged sitting and assist with improved circulation and posture.
Dr. Travis Fahey, PT, DPT, Pro Staff Physical Therapy