Occupational hazard is a major concern seen in the age group of 20-50 years, the most productive age group of any country. With technology at our fingertips and a sedentary work life, people are knowingly or unknowingly living an unhealthy lifestyle. Poor workplace design, awkward body mechanics or posture, repetitive body movements, and other ergonomic hazards induce or contribute to a staggering number of cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). CTDs affect hands, neck, mid back, upper back and legs along with pain, stiffness, tingling, and numbness in the limbs. Structures getting affected here include muscles, joints, bones, nerves and blood vessels.
Our life is a simple biological cycle that depends on our day-to-day activities like sitting, standing, walking, stair climbing etc., of which sitting is the most neglected one. Sitting poorly for long hours could also lead to early degenerative changes like the wear and tear of soft tissues, slouching and humpback posture. A recent study shows that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability, which is increasing at an alarming rate. Moreover, sitting long hours could also contribute to the chances of diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity and that too even at an early age.
A correct body posture helps in reducing the unwanted strain and stress on the body thereby reducing acute pains. Hence, proper sitting posture plays a major role in maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It is not just limited to physical improvisation in a person but can also help in one’s mental well-being. It can help you achieve success in three surprising ways:
Proper posture is associated with the health benefits like higher levels of energy, reduces the chances of headaches, lowers stress, and improves concentration. Since most vital organs are located in our core, everything from circulation to breathing and digestion can be affected by posture. While sitting in a posture in which these vital organs are compressed, we aren’t allowing our organs to function at their absolute capacity. But, by maintaining a proper posture, organs are allowed to expand and operate normally, improving our overall health. Moreover, it also contributes to the productivity of the organization by keeping employees at the office away from filing sick leaves.
The ‘Powerful Pose’ releases chemicals in the body that can make a person feel more confident. When we sit in an upright posture with our shoulders back straight and lifting our head – Testosterone, a hormone associated with greater confidence and power, is released, and Cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered.
It is scientifically proven that maintaining a poor posture continuously for 30 minutes significantly increases stress levels, depression, and fear while holding oneself in an upright posture results in greater confidence and lower stress levels.
BETTER COMMUNICATION AND HIGHER CONFIDENCE
Having poor posture like slouching could lead to the formation of a humpback. Wrapping one’s arms around his/her body detracts one from one’s leadership and reflects as a self-doubt. On the other hand, standing tall would display greater confidence and control of oneself allowing a person to showcase his/her skills as a better leader.
Now that we understand the importance of a good posture, I would like to have your attention to quickly look at some more points which are easily missed out while living our day to day life. These small points have the capacity to make drastic changes in our lives and could add quantitative years to one’s life.
- The first step for a correct sitting is getting hold of a proper chair and knowing the right posture to sit, especially when it involves long sitting hours. To begin with, when you are sitting, make sure that you are following the Plumb Line, which is the keeping the head, shoulder, and hip properly aligned. Ensure that the back or the spine of the chair is supporting your body. (See Image)
- You must ensure that the height of the chair has been raised so your legs are at an angle of 90 degrees. The chair should not pressurize the calf muscles, heel support is a must, the chair should be moved from heel pressure rather than toe pressure.
- A proper viewing angle is the key and to ensure this, move your screen closer to you (18-20 inch) so you can see it easily without straining your eyes (see image). You can use books or a stand to raise the height of the monitor. A little-known fact, which is not paid much attention to, is that the elbow must be supported either on the armrest or on the table & wrist must be in neutral posture.
- While trying to get up from the chair, slide at the end of the chair & keep turning on either side. This prevents pressure on the disc and thereby reducing the chances of a slip disc as well as other muscular disorders like sprains.
Exercise and Balanced Diet
Exercising with a well-balanced diet plays an important part in keeping the body fit and leading a healthy lifestyle. Indulging in physical activities for 45-60 minutes every day will not only help in reducing or maintaining body weight but it will also help in reducing the risk of chronic illness like increased bad cholesterol levels and higher blood pressure which is commonly seen among today’s stressed out professionals. If you are not able to find time before or after work, take breaks in the middle of your work for about 30-45 minutes. Include stretching during intervals which helps in avoiding stiffness of the joints reducing the strain on the lower back, knees, and shoulders. Drinking 2.5 to 3 liters of water during your office timings helps keeping your body cells hydrated and a proper flow of nutrients in your body.
Importance of ergonomics from an organization’s point of view
Ergonomics is the process to improve workspace environment to minimize the risk of injury or harm. In today’s fast-paced world, the workforce must keep up with the demands of multitasking and high levels of stress. Employees working in these types of environments can be left feeling tired, as well as being ignored, overworked and unappreciated.
Companies need to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy workforce, yet many remain unaware of what is required to promote and sustain a healthy work environment for their staff. To abate the severe consequences of the poor work environment, the management must organize a regular ‘ergonomic counseling’. Employees should also undergo routine health check-ups along with the training on improving their posture.
Health is a great treasure. Good health contributes to the emotional well-being and happiness of an individual as well. The productivity of individuals is the key to success for any organization and the country as a whole. The mantra of ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is the key to a healthy start towards a wholesome living. The feeling of achieving ‘Good health, together’ should be the motto of every organization and thereby creating a healthy and connected work environment.
Dr. Needhi Jain (PT)