Did you get a new Gadget?

Did Santa bring you a new gadget for Christmas, or perhaps you bagged a bargain in the sales?

If so, I am thinking that the main focus of your attention has been on how it works and all exploring all the cool/funky /whizzy things it can do?

I’m also thinking you probably haven’t thought too much about the short and long term effects that  using your new gadget may have on your body?

What do I mean?

Often our gadgets have relatively small screen areas, controls and keyboards that invite us to close up over them. Next time you are in a coffee shop, take a moment to look at the postures of the people you see around you… Typically, out come the gadgets and down goes the head, with effects can be felt in the head, neck and shoulders. We hold onto the gadget, to place it a level where we can interact with it, and we don’t want to drop it either! This fires off muscles in our arms, wrists and hands that will be fatiguing quickly in this static mode, while our thumbs and fingers are working overtime with scrolling and typing.

So what’s the problem?

If we are doing these types of activity for just a short time each day, we are not looking at a big problem, but the reality is that we spend more and more time each day bonded to our technology, for work and leisure. 

When you’re scrunched up, slumped and static, your muscles, tendons and ligaments are over-stretched, lengthened or shortened and basically over-worked. On top of that, they are having to work extra hard just to support the weight of that forward leaning head and upper body –not a good combination.

The other big problem?

We are designed to move frequently, and it improves our comfort, concentration and productivity - but research suggests that, on average, we now spend more time sitting down (9.3 hours) than sleeping in any given day. It is so easy to lose ourselves in our work, focus on meeting deadlines and suddenly realise that is has been hours since we moved from our chair. 

The scary part?

Research now shows this sedentary behaviour is not balanced out by taking by exercise – frequent movement is the key.

In ‘Eat Move Sleep’ , Tom Rath states

‘Make inactivity your enemy. Exercise alone is not enough. Working out three times a week is not enough. Being active throughout the day is what keeps you healthy.’

In ‘Standing Up for workplace wellness - a White Paper’ publised by Ergotron, Dr. Marc Hamilton-   microbiologist from University of Missouri-Columbia - explains that

“Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body. In other words, exercising more will not counteract the problems caused by sitting too much. It may seem a subtle point, but the distinction is key to our new understanding of sedentary behaviour.”

The good news is that the answer is simple!

Here a few suggestions to bring movement into your daily routines – stand up to take phone calls, and walk around if your environment allows, network to a printer that you need to walk to, take a walk and talk to colleagues rather than always sending an email, take the stairs not the lift. Have you       experienced standing or walking meetings – these often have the added benefit of being more focused too!  

These may all feel disruptive when you start, but persevere and it will become second nature.

Standing is like walking - it increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow and ramps up metabolism, and is easy to fit into your day.

Interested in the idea of standing meetings? There are some thought provoking articles around –here are a couple to get you started  

Meet Until You're Weak in the Knees from 99U (http://99u.com/articles/5798/meet-until-youre-weak-in-the-knees), Deborah Sweeney wrote ‘Skip The Seat And Take A Stand During Meetings (Or Not)’ for Forbes

My key message

- small choices have big effects.

Take a moment to think about your posture when interacting with your technology, and learn to build in movement into your working day - your body will love the difference, and you will reap the benefits in the short and long term.

For more top tips, check out my ‘Body Talk’ blog from June last year.