How to sit and set up your workspace without getting tied up in knots
Monday, August 17, 2020
She hasn’t been in her office since the outbreak of COVID-19. Instead she sits curled up in her favorite easy chair at home, balancing her laptop on her knees. But lately, she’s noticed that her back has been hurting and it’s not as easy to stand up straight at the end of the day.
The worldwide pandemic has left a lot of office and school buildings empty and thousands of people figuring out how to set up workspaces and classrooms at home, using mostly what they have around the house. For some, it’s a kid’s school desk and chair, a fat recliner, a little-used antique secretary and an equally old rolling chair or even the kitchen table — none designed for eight hours of sitting.
So how should you set up a workstation or classroom so you and your kid don’t end up looking and feeling like pretzels?
- Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level.
- Your keyboard should be straight in front of you and your telephone and mouse should be within easy reach.
- Make sure your chair follows the shape of your spine and supports your back.
- Your feet should be resting comfortably on the floor.
- Arm rests should be adjustable, close to your body and your shoulders be relaxed.
- Avoid crossing your knees or ankles.
- Position your knees the same height or lower than your hips.
- Place your ankles in front of your knees.
Even if you’re sitting correctly in an ergonomic chair that supports your back, you can’t sit there all day. When you’re in the office and your child is at school, you’re more likely to get up to go to a co-worker’s desk, the lunchroom or copy room. Working and having school from home means you can settle in watching TV with your laptop and before you know it, you haven’t moved in four hours.
Get up — your life literally depends on it!
The Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies and concluded that sitting for eight hours a day has the same health risks as obesity and smoking. Risks include diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, varicose veins, compressed discs in your back, deep vein thrombosis, high blood pressure, weakening of muscles in legs, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.
But you still have to work, right? So, keep your body busy while you are busy.
- Stand up or go for a walk while you’re talking on the phone.
- Take a break every 30 minutes to stretch, move and reposition your back.
- Try a standing desk or put your laptop on a high table or counter so you can stand up to work.
- Put your laptop on your treadmill and walk while you work.
And try to get in exercise after work and on the weekend to counter all that sitting.
Research from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that endurance training could counteract the effects of sitting for long periods. Prolonged sitting can lessen blood flow to the legs, but is not as severe in those who do endurance training.
According to a study by the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, just 30 minutes a day of physical activity can reduce the risk of an early death by 17%.
Looking for ways to get moving? Try some yoga in the morning, do some lunges between Zoom meetings, get in some stretches, deep squats, pushups or planks to break up the day. And you can always go for a nice socially distanced walk, even more beneficial if you take your pup and stroll in the park.
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