Ergonomics, Movement and Human Health
As time goes on, medical science is discovering more and more about the dangers of being sedentary for long periods. Even though being a well-seasoned couch potato poses a significant risk, it is time we spend seated at work that presents the biggest concern.
The most disturbing finding in recent times is that even if you exercise more than seven hours per week, it won't make up for being glued to an office chair for over seven hours a day.
Health risks linked to a sedentary lifestyle can include severe and sometimes irreversible conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Back and neck problems
Staying stationary for long periods has even been linked to mental health disorders and reduced life expectancy.
The ergonomic workstation
Ergonomics is defined as "relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment". This relates to any item or product that has been designed or shaped to maximise efficiency and comfort of use.
Making your workstation or home office ergonomic is more than just well-designed furniture and tools; it is also about optimising your heights and distances.
Your chair is your primary support throughout your day, so the ergonomic adjustments on your chair must be maximised. There are four major adjustments to consider:
- Push your hips all the way back into the chair.
- Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor. Your knees should be equal to, or slightly below your hips.
- Adjust to the back of the chair from 100° to 110° reclined. Your spine must be supported and maintained in its natural 'S' shape.
- Adjust the armrests to ensure your forearms are supported. Your forearms should be level with your keyboard, and your shoulders relaxed.
The team here at ChairMATES specialise in premium quality ergonomic chairs. Call our friendly staff to discuss what chair may be best suited for your unique workstation.
Your keyboard should be able to be used with minimal use of your arm. Your mouse and phone should also be accessible with minimal reaching and stretching.
- Pull up close to your keyboard.
- Have your keyboard directly in front of you
- Adjust your keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, elbows are slightly open, and your wrists and hands are straight.
- Your arms should be parallel to the keyboard at all times.
If your desk does not have a keyboard tray, then you may have to adjust your chair or desk height to accommodate. If this means your feet are dangling, ensure you invest in a raised foot stand.
Your monitor's height can have a drastic impact on the health of your neck and shoulders. It is essential to set up your monitor so that it is:
- Centred directly in front of you.
- Positioned approximately two to three inches above the seated eye level.
- At least arm's length away from you.
If you use multiple monitors, make sure your main screen is the one that is centralised. If you wear bifocal glasses, lower the screen to a comfortable height. It is essential to minimise as much screen glare as possible for your eyes.
Get up and move
It used to be said that you should get up from your desk at least once an hour. However, a Canadian study found that this may not be enough. If you are sitting at a desk all day, then you should be getting up to move every half an hour.
The study looked at nearly 8000 people who were moving via a fitness tracker. The results found that 77-per cent of those people fell into the dangerous 'sedentary' category, which is sitting more than 12 hours a day.
In follow-ups, the researchers learned that 340 people from the study had died in the years following. Looking back over the data, those that moved the least, sitting for more than 13 hours a day, and up to 1.5-hours at a time, had a nearly two-fold increase in mortality.
Some ways you can combat "sitting disease" is by actively monitoring your time. If you are concerned about reducing your productivity by getting up every half hour, you could try the Pomodoro technique.
This is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The method uses a timer to break down your workflow into 25-minute lots. This technique is perfect for allowing five minutes every half hour to get up and move around.
The Pomodoro Technique has been found to promote not only healthy movement intervals, but also improve mental clarity and productivity. There are a number of Pomodoro timer apps for both IOS and android devices.