Sitting is the new smoking

Time to take a break and reassess your posture to avoid “Upper Crossed Syndrome”, or slouching. It’s the worldwide plague, sometimes referred to as “Silicon Valley Syndrome”, or more generally as “the smoking of our generation”.

Our sedentary lifestyles, whether planted 9 to 5 in front of a laptop or desktop, or prolonged periods hunched over and gaming, watching TV, or peering at our smart phones, tablets and other devices, are killing us.

According to the article which appeared in a 2013 Harvard Business Review titled “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation,” by Nilofer Merchant, every hour of sitting cuts 22 minutes from our lifespan.  In contrast, smoking one cigarette apparently shortens the lifespan by 11 minutes.

“The common denominator in the modern workday is our, um, tush,” wrote Merchant, a corporate director at a NASDAQ-traded firm and a former founder and CEO of Rubicon. “As we work, we sit more than we do anything else.” Add in the time we sit in transit and at home, and we’re averaging 9.3 hours of sit time every day.

We spend most of our waking hours harnessed to technology: tablets, smart phones, desktops and laptops. The result is back and neck pain, headaches, and shoulder and arm pain, which can do worse damage to the spine over time.

Prolonged periods of time at a desk or hunched over a device are causing muscle and joint strain on every age group. This reduces circulation of blood to your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments, sometimes leading to stiffness and pain. If a workstation is not set up properly, these steady positions can put even greater stress on your muscles and joints.

Persistent movements to one side, such as holding your phone under your neck while you type or multitask, or constant rotation of the neck and back to the same side can aggravate joints and soft tissues causing neck and back pain.

But sitting is here to stay, a necessary evil no matter your vocation or level of activity. Getting regular, daily exercise is vital for good health and longevity, as are genetics and diet. Walk and talk meetings have their place, as do corporate and community initiatives to encourage movement. Tips to avoid muscle and joint problems include:

  • Sit at an adjustable desk specially designed for use with computers.
  • Have the computer monitor (screen) either at eye level, an arm’s length away from you.
  • Have your keyboard at a height that lets your elbows rest comfortably at your sides. Your forearms should be roughly parallel with the floor and level with the keyboard.
  • Adjust your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor, or use a footstool.
  • Use an ergonomic chair, or a ball which encourages your body to use core muscles to balance.
  • Use an ergonomic keyboard so that your hands and wrists are in a more natural position.
  • Your wrists should be straight, neck and chin relaxed.
  • Take frequent short breaks, go for a walk and do stretching exercises at your desk.



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