As someone who use to sit at an office desk for many hours per day, I remember what it was like. Deadlines loom, lunch and break times quickly pass; we forego the pause in our workday and instead remain seated at our desks in favour of productivity. On the rare occasion that we actually do take the afternoon coffee-break, we are heading down to the work cafeteria and… Yep! You guessed it! We pull up a chair and slouch our bodies back into sitting once again.
What does that do for your body? What does that do for your overall well-being? Here are my Top 3 issues with desk dwelling:
1. Holding any one position for long takes its toll on the body
Some say “sitting is the new smoking” but I find that to be more fear-mongering than helpful. Sitting isn’t going to give you COPD or cancer, so let’s not be so dramatic! The truth is the average desk dweller spends about 14 – 15 hours per day seated. This mundane and long-held position creates imbalances in the body that can lead to hip dysfunction, low back pain, chronic neck pain and shoulder issues.
2. Breathing is not optimal when the body is hunched over
Your diaphragm, a key muscle in respiration, sits underneath your lungs, housed in your abdominal cavity. When you are hunched over your desk all day the diaphragm is compressed, limiting your breath from moving into the full capacity of your lungs. Your system compensates by shortening the breath, which in turn stimulates your sympathetic nervous system (aka: stress response, fight or flight).
If you are working at an office chances are your nervous system is on high alert already with multi-tasking and tight deadlines to try to manage. You don’t need any more “help” triggering fight or flight!
3. Long bouts of sitting summons the Energy Vampire
Those rounded shoulders and head jutting forward not only create dysfunction in the physical body but they drain you mentally and emotionally too. From a psycho-emotional standpoint, our shoulders carry all of our worries and burdens. Continued sitting and leaning in to our work reinforce the feeling of being dumped on, weighted down with more stuff, which has a way of de-energizing and probably making you less productive.
So what if we tweaked the afternoon routine and sitting for what should actually be a real 15 minute break from work and replace it with a variety of practices and positions that better support our productivity and well-being?
Soon to follow: More on what you can do in my next segment on Reinventing the Afternoon Coffee Break, Part II.