In the current age of easy-access technology, a significant percentage of Americans stare at a computer screen for much of their day, whether at an office desk or at home. And when we’re not on our computers, we’re glued to our smartphones. An average office worker sits for 15 hours every day, which calculates to about 80,000 hours spent sitting over a lifetime. Including exercise and physical activity, people across the U.S. only spend approximately 3 hours per day simply standing.
This sedentary lifestyle has been coined “sitting disease,” which, broadly speaking, is defined as a condition of increased sedentary behavior associated with adverse health effects. Sedentary behavior can be defined by two things: the position you are in, which is generally reclining or sitting, and the amount of energy expenditure that your body is experiencing.
Any extended sitting, such as at a desk or in front of a computer, can be harmful. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, according to Mayo Clinic College of Medicine professor Dr. Edward Laskowski (What are the risks of sitting too much?). He cites an analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels which found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks posed by obesity and smoking.
OSHA has developed a Computer Workstations eTool to illustrate basic ergonomic principles that will help you create a safe and comfortable computer workstation. The best way to set up a computer workstation is to follow the principle of neutral body positioning, which is a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and skeletal system and reduces your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).
One of the most effective positions is the standing posture. The user’s legs, torso, neck and head are approximately in-line and vertical with feet slightly apart. The user may also elevate one foot on a rest while in this posture. One easy and relatively inexpensive solution is to utilize a stand-up desk converter, which sits on a desk or worktable and provides the flexibility to alternate between standing and sitting.
Whether you are working from home or in an office, it is important to maintain ergonomic awareness of your posture, bodily movement and the amount of sitting/reclining you are doing throughout the day.
For more information, visit OSHA’s Ergonomics webpage.