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Ergonomics Alone Won’t Keep You Healthy

You may have heard ergonomics will help you maintain better posture, avoid repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, and maintain your health in general. You may also have heard of solutions like standing desks to combat all the negative health effects of sitting all day.

For example, sitting all day can be a fast track to degenerative disc disease. Too much sitting tends to compress the spine, weighing down on the fluid-filled discs between each vertebrae. The result can be a lifetime of excruciating back pain.

But don’t reach for the standing desk just yet. A recent study from Cornell University indicates standing all day is equally unhealthy.

Like so many things in life, the right answer is moderation. Cornell recommends variable movement throughout the day.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Human bodies were designed for a variety of activities. Some require standing. Some require sitting. It is only very recently that a large portion of our population has found themselves required to sit behind a desk all day.

Our bodies need to move! Thus, you should focus on standing up and moving around your office at least once an hour every day.

Committing to at least a half-hour of walking before or after you get to work can be exceptionally helpful as well. It’s not just about weight loss. It’s about making sure your body gets to do all the things it was designed to do throughout the course of your day. Of course, even a thirty minute daily walk can have a huge impact on your ability to lose weight and to keep it off.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t invest in ergonomic chairs, keyboards, and desk designs which help you maintain good posture throughout the day. This can be quite the worthwhile investment. Certainly working at an ergonomically-sound desk beats working at a traditional desk.  

Incidentally, if you’re looking for a good holiday gift for the hard-working, type A man or woman in your life who seems to have everything, ergonomic aides are a good choice. Just make sure you pass along the advice to get up and move during the day too, because ergonomics alone will not protect your loved one’s health.

How do you do it, especially in an office culture which discourages leaving your desk for long periods of time?

Stand up and pace while you handle a phone call.

Even the strictest offices will usually let you get up to get a cup of coffee or a drink from the water cooler. Take advantage of the time to get up and stretch your legs. Don’t skip on any breaks you’re entitled to, and use those times to get up and on your feet. If you have a standing desk, do the opposite: use breaks to sit down and relax.

These small adjustments will have big health impacts, and they don’t cost anything at all. Set a reminder on your cell phone if you have to, but keep moving!