By Chris Woods, Co-founder
As captioners, how long we sit when we capture the spoken word in a courtroom, for a broadcast, or for a live performance is now considered a potential health hazard. Some experts are even suggesting “sitting is the new smoking.” That statement certainly got our attention and we wanted to learn more.
How Much Sitting Are We Doing?
Since 2012, a number of studies have been published that measure how much computer workers sit during their workday. The studies show that tech workers spend more than half their awake time sitting (approximately 64 hours per week). In a study of tech workers, Lumoback (a personal posture training startup company) found that “the average computer worker could easily spend 48,360 hours sitting at work over a 30-year career.” That translates to more than five years of life sitting at work.
My co-founder, Jeanette Christian, and I wondered if captioners spend even more time in the sitting position due to the demands of working on our stenography machines and the length of captioning sessions. Our backs are certainly telling us that when we overdo it. I often have to lay flat on my back just to counter the effects.
Perhaps it’s time for us to pay more attention to the signals our bodies are giving us.
How Can Sitting Be a Problem?
Turns out our bodies weren’t really designed to stay in the sitting position for a long time. We reduce the blood flow to our legs and feet when we sit in a desk chair (even many that are ergonomically designed). In a chair, our spine is also in sub-optimal position. We were designed to be mobile, not to be sitters.
If you are like us, we often find ourselves craning our necks forward while we are typing at our machines and then feeling the affects in the muscles of my shoulders and back the next day. We also get tingly legs sometimes, which means our blood is not circulating to our legs properly. Health experts note that when we don’t move our legs enough, we can experience a range of problems from varicose veins to swollen ankles.
Unfortunately, muscle degeneration, heart disease, an over-productive pancreas, colon cancer, back problems, and difficulty focusing can all be tied to sitting for long periods of time. In a recently published article in the Washington Post: Health & Science, there is a great illustration of the health risks.
What Can You Do to Minimize the Impact of Sitting?
We know that sounds like a lot of bad news for a profession that spends a lot of time sitting, but there are a number of things we can do to reduce or minimize the negative impact on the body from sitting too long.
Consider these tips:
- Improve your sitting posture: Place your feet flat on the floor, bring your arms close to your sides, bend your elbows 90 degrees, and avoid leaning forward toward the keyboard. A new techy device developed by Lumoback warns you that your posture is out of whack. It also counts how long you sit, stand, and sleep and your number of steps.
- Switch your seat: Sitting on an ergonomic ball is more dynamic than a chair and can improve the use of your core while you sit. Be smart about your chair choice to minimize the impact of sitting on your body.
- Stand up: Many technology workers use a desk that can be raised and lowered to allow the user to stand sometimes and sit other times. Jeanette raises the tripod that holds her captioning machine to allow her to stand while she types. If you prefer to use a desk, check out the Kangaroo Adjustable Height desks made by Ergo Desktop.
- Take breaks to stretch and move: Try a routine of simple exercises right before and after a captioning session. Even if you take just 60 seconds to do some simple exercises or stretches multiple times each day, you can see marked results. Check out Minute Movement – a great new workplace exercise routine and more tips on how to get moving at work.
Let us know what you do to keep your neck and back from aching and to keep healthy when you have to sit too much. Let’s share some best practices! Reach us on Twitter @1CapApp or make a comment on this post.
Want to Learn More? Check Out These Great Articles
Berkowitz, B. and Clark, P., 2014. The Health Hazards of Sitting. The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/1k1yDyh
Grant, R. 2013. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ – 60% of Americans suffer from Silicon Valley Syndrome. Venture Beat. http://bit.ly/1jseJNk
Weller, C. 2013. Is Sitting the New Smoking? A workday of inactivity could offset any benefits of exercise. Medical Daily. http://bit.ly/1nZoDWJ