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4 ERGONOMIC MYTHS DEBUNKED - by Lisa Raleigh

Think you should be standing at your computer all day? Think again. We separate the myths from the facts when it comes to creating the ideal (healthy) work space.

What does a typical day look like for you? I know for many of us, it involves a whole lot of sitting – working at a PC and being sedentary. The not-so-great news is that sitting for too long puts a mental and physical toll on your body. In fact, being sedentary can increase the risk of obesity and a cluster of conditions that contribute to metabolic syndrome. These include;

  • Increased blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Excess visceral fat (around the waist and organs)
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer
  • A greater chance of becoming depressed or anxious

Considering all this, and the risks associated with too much sitting, you might be thinking that it’s best to stand at work. While I agree that standing is a good alternative, we still shouldn’t be standing all day, every day. The key is to find a healthy balance between the two, and move as much as possible throughout the day, says ergonomist, Josie King (MSc Ergonomics). I recently caught up with her to discuss some common myths surrounding ergonomics.

ERGONOMIC MYTHS AND TRUTHS

Myth: If I don’t sit on a chair, it’s best to sit on a gym ball.

Fact: Josie says it’s not ideal to sit on a large gym ball all day. The reason? It doesn’t offer the support you need to practice good posture. Sitting upright all the time, still compresses the vertebrae and discs in the spine, she explains. And the problem with perching on a gym ball, is that you can’t lean back. Leaning back in a seated position helps to take the load off your spine, she says. In fact, a recline position – at around 110°, is best. If you’re looking for an ergonomic chair that has a reclining function, Ergolab has the best options available as their range of Humanscale office chairs are designed to offer additional lumbar support. 

Myth: I need to stand all the time at work.

Fact: Sure, standing is good, and it’s great to give your body a break from sitting, but you shouldn’t stand all day either, says Josie. Standing for too long as its own set of drawbacks, especially if you get tired and lean more on the one side etc. Standing for hours can also contribute to backache, leg cramps, varicose veins, and swelling. The best thing to do is listen to your body and alternate positions when you get tired, explains Josie. This is where the incredible Humanscale QuickStand ECO comes in. It’s one of the most innovative sit-stand desks you’ll find in SA as it allows for seamless sitting and standing throughout the day. It’s simple to set-up and easily adjustable (no fancy equipment required), plus it caters for up to four different PC configurations.

WATCH: This quick, informative video to see how it works.  

Myth: Propping my PC up with books is good enough.

Fact: If you balance on your PC on a pile of books to raise it to eye level, but your keypad is still too low, you’ll be straining your shoulders and arms to type, says Josie. The same goes for the mouse. We tend to stretch our arms out too far when we use the mouse, which puts strain on the neck and shoulders. “This is why I always recommend using a mouse pad, so that your hand, wrist and arms are in alignment and closer to your body,” she adds. Again, one of the best ways to help you create the ideal ergonomic space at work is to invest in a sit-stand desk which can be adjusted so that you can raise your keypad and screen to the right level. One of the set-up configurations of the Humanscale QuickStand ECO, for instance, includes a nifty notepad holder to allow you to place your screen at the right height, as well as your keypad.

Myth: A portable laptop is better for my posture than a desk PC.

Fact: “laptops and small screens are two of the biggest contributors to lower back pain, as well as shoulder and neck pain,” says Josie. This is because you tend to hunch over your laptop a lot or rest it on your lap when you type, which means you’re always looking down. This compresses the spine and can cause alignment problems. The only way to avoid this is to alternate positions often and maintain a good posture as much as you can. This means, avoiding hunching over the screen with the laptop on your lap etc.

ALSO SEE: My article on Sitting Is Not The New Smoking (It’s how you sit and move that makes all the difference). 

TAKE-HOME TIPS

  • Move as much as you can throughout the day.
  • Don’t be left in a static position for too long. Rather invest in a sit-stand desk which allows you to move freely, while still completing your work.
  • Be in the most neutral position for your spine. (A neutral spine is when all three curves are present with a natural alignment).
  • Live a holistic life with balance. For example, go for a walk at lunchtime, don’t smoke, eat well, stress less and get enough sleep. (Easier said than done, I know, but it’s the only way to support your body and prevent injuries as you age).

 

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