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Business owners – how to avoid the ‘sitting disease’

Here, physical therapist Mark O’Brien looks why you should take active steps to move around while running your small business, and avoid the potential health problems associated with remaining desk-bound for most of the day.

One of the perks working as a physical therapist is that I don’t have to spend the most part of the day seated at the desk.  However in a previous career in IT I did have to spend long hours in front of the computer with very little opportunity to move around.

At a certain part of the day, normally after lunch the discomfort between my shoulder blades and back was debilitating. What I noticed was whenever I was in another part of the office repairing computers (this meant I was standing) I never experienced the pain I normally would have when I was seated!

My clients will know how much of a stickler I am for improving posture and preventing pain and injury. The workplace can be such a pressure cooker for stress and unhealthy habits, why not make 2014 the year that you and your colleagues address some of these poor habits and create a better working environment for yourselves?

Sure it’s easy for me to say now that I’ve escaped that environment but I do remember what it was like and trying to avoid poor habits as much as possible. I swapped playing computer games at lunch time to walks by the beach, I used any excuse possible to move from my desk. This normally involved deliberately  seeking advice from a colleague that was based in another office floors away.

Steps you should take to keep away from your desk

Here are some ways you can help yourself avoid pain and dysfunction and the negative side effects of too much sitting!

1. If you have a meeting with a few colleagues that doesn’t involve a whiteboard why not go outdoors and discuss your meeting while walking. Most of us have smartphones. It’s easy to take notes or even record your discussion.

2. Research suggests we should be walking 10,000 steps a day. Unless you walk a long way to work you’ll need to cover some of these in the office. A pedometer records how many steps you take, surely there is an app for that?! Walking around the office may seem like a small amount of exercise but take all the opportunities you can get. Instead of using email to communicate with a colleague why not get up on your feet and make the effort to speak to him or her on the other side of the office!? Of course the usual rule applies, use the stairs, not the lift!

3.  If at all possible never eat lunch at your desk. Doing so lowers your productivity and makes you hungrier later in the day. Keep unhealthy snacks away from your desk!

4. If you have a personal printer or rubbish bin get rid of them and use another one located in another part of the office.

5. Use an exercise ball for a chair. This will help you strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture.

6. Invest in a height adjustable desk. By breaking up the cycle of sitting you will improve your posture without even having to work on it. There are many other advantages to standing in the workplace. Excessive sitting, or sitting disease, is also now known to contribute to the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So just getting up off your backside for an extra three to four hours per day while at work and at home can reduce these risks. A recent test carried out by a scientific team from the University of Chester in the UK working with BBC Two’s ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’ programme,  found that standing increased people’s heart rate which – when averaged over weeks and months – lead to the equivalent number of calories burned as if they’d run about ten marathons in the year.

They also found that their blood sugar levels dropped after standing at their desks for random intervals at least three hours daily.

Further Information

Standing desks can be expensive but now there is a very affordable, practical and well made height adjustable desk called the Varidesk available for as little as £300. Invest in your long term health and change the way you work today. Check out www.varidesk.co.uk for more information.

You can visit Mark O’Brien’s site at www.harbourclinic.com.

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