If you’re like most office workers, you probably spend a majority of your day sitting at a desk, hunched over your computer and mobile device. Chances are, as you’re reading this very article, you’re sitting down and reading from a screen. First, thank you for reading. Second, it’s time to change your routine.
According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity ranks fourth on the list of leading preventable killers, with an estimated 3.2 million people dying each year as a result. The Center for Disease Control reports that we spend 75 cents of every healthcare dollar on chronic conditions linked to sedentary behavior. When we sit, muscles in our lower body turn off and automatically adopt positions that shut off trunk and spine muscles. As a result, we experience compromised body function as well as joint and soft-tissue injuries. While injuries can vary from neck and back muscle soreness all the way to chronic conditions, there are a number of ways entrepreneurs can lead the charge in combatting this rampant—yet preventable—sitting epidemic.
For starters, stand
Standing desks are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, and with good reason. Seated office workers have more musculoskeletal injuries than any other industry sector worker. Those who sit for more than nine hours each day are also prone to developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. (1) If acquiring a standing desk is not an option for you, there are inexpensive desktop converters that enable you to convert your current desk to a standing desk. Especially for those who aren’t sure if they can manage standing up all day, desktop converters are an easy way to try out this new way of working.
If you have to sit, sit ergonomically
While standing is better than sitting, if you have to sit, do so in an ergonomic manner. To start, contact your Human Resources department for an ergonomic evaluation. A typical evaluation will focus on providing an adjustable, supportive chair and an appropriately-leveled keyboard tray.
Next, practice good sitting habits. When sitting at your desk, your feet should be flat on the floor, and the height of the chair should allow your thighs to angle down slightly. This position will allow you to place your weight through your ‘sitting bones,’ rather than rounding your lower back and causing your shoulders to round out and your posture to slump forward. As for your keyboard height, set the keyboard high enough so that your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees. If the tray is too low and cannot be adjusted, place the keyboard on your desk. Finally, the mouse should be placed at the same level as the keyboard.
Take regular breaks
Whether you sit or stand, you should take breaks from your desk every 30 minutes—especially if you have back and neck pain. Remember, even a quick stretch or some minimal movement—such as walking to the break room or bathroom—will help. A 20 minute walk will prove even more beneficial, promoting healthy blood flow that brings important nutrients to all the spinal structures.
Does taking twice hourly breaks seem unrealistic? Put your smartphone to use. Download an app—such as Stand Up! or Sitting Timer—to remind you to take breaks from your desk. It may not be possible to get up every time the reminder goes off, but it will help you be more cognizant that you’ve been sitting for a while—and that the health of your back and neck depend on you taking sufficient breaks.
Stretch at your desk
Proper lumbar positioning, standing up, and stretching will all help relieve the stress sitting causes your body. Depending on the amount of space you have in your work space, try a variety of stretches, like ankle and wrist rolls, a hands-over-head stretch, head rolls, and shoulder rolls. You can also engage your core with seated twists. Sit up firmly and twist your body left and right in controlled motion while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. Twist only from your torso. Hold for five seconds on each side. Repeat a few times. You can also relieve tension and aches with a seated neck stretch. To do so, sit up straight with your core engaged. Drop the side of your head towards your shoulder and hold for five seconds, then repeat on the other side. Perform this move as often as you like.
If you have room to move around a bit, try these stretches and exercises:
Hamstring and back stretch. Stand upright with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. With your core engaged, bend forward from the hip keeping the back/spine straight until you feel the hamstring taut, and hold for three seconds. Slowly move back up and repeat a few times.
Squats. Stand up tall, core engaged, feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or straight out in front of you. Hinge from the hips and sit back into a squat. Knees should be in line with your toes. Stand back up. Repeat this move 10-15 times.
Calf raises. Stand up straight with your core engaged and feet hip-width apart. Place your hands with on your hips or straight out in front of you. Raise your heels and stand on the balls of your feet, pause for five seconds, then lower your heels back down. Repeat 10-15 times.
Shoulder stretch. Grasp your hands behind your back, stand up straight. Pull your hands down while opening up your chest, feeling the shoulder and chest stretch.
Manage inflammation and back pain with supplements
Entrepreneurs that sit all day long are putting continuous strain on their lumbar spine. Sustained sedentary behavior will cause inflammation in your joints and degeneration of your discs. If you’re reading this after decades of sitting, fear not. There are a number of natural supplements can be used to modulate inflammation and back pain.
Glucosamine HCL and chondroitin sulfate are natural substances found in and around cells of cartilage. These well-researched nutrients help to form the “shock-absorbing” components of cartilage and to heal articular surfaces. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that the body produces and distributes in cartilage and other connective tissue. Glucosamine also provides the building blocks for the production of chondrocytes that help produce new cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water. Both sulfates have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and slow cartilage loss.
Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, has been link to promoting joint health by reducing inflammation. Scientists found that introducing curcumin to the tendon culture inhibited a signaling protein called NF-KB, which can induce further inflammation. Since curcumin is not easily absorbed, it’s best taken as MicroActive® Curcumin, which has 10x greater absorption than regular curcumin while providing 12 hour sustained release. (2) AppleActiveic® organic apple peel powder has also been clinically shown to support healthy joint function.(3)
Entrepreneurs wanting to prevent or reverse the negative effects of sitting should start right away. Investing in a standing desk at home, or making a request for one at the office, taking regular breaks, stretching, and incorporating anti-inflammatory supplements will all help expedite the body’s ability to recover from long hours spent sitting. Mild back and neck soreness may be just an inconvenience now, but sustained sitting habits can lead to chronic health problems down the road. Who better to lead the charge of workplace change than entrepreneurs? After all, your health depends on it.
(1) Harrington, JL, et al. Circulation, 2017
(2) Journal of Biological Chemistry – August 2011. “Curcumin modulates nuclear factor-KB”.
(3 )Wolfe K, Wu X, Hai Liu R. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51:609-14.