“Sitting is the new smoking.” Sounds extreme but perhaps we shouldn’t laugh it off quite so quickly.
The Conversation reports that “Back pain is the single leading cause of disability in the world. In the US, four out of every five people experience back pain at some point in their life. In the UK, back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and missed work. In fact, absence from work due to back problems costs British employers more than £3 billion every year.”
The Huffington Post reports that “…research links a highly sedentary lifestyle with a shorter life span and increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, among other serious health problems.”
Multiple research papers on this topic find the same thing. Sitting too much can have a negative effect on your health. When you add up all the hours that we spend sitting at work and the time spent commuting and sitting at home and add to that the amount of time spent with our heads looking down at a mobile phone, is it any wonder that our spines become misaligned and sore?
Our poor bodies are sending us signals of discomfort and then leading to pain to let us know that this isn’t what our body is meant to do all day.
And yet despite the huge amounts of research saying that we need to sit less and move more, the majority of workplaces still have their employees sitting all day long.
If you ask your employer for a desk riser so that you can work for some of your day in a standing position, the request can be met with ridicule or veiled hostility or both. The onus is often on you to prove via a doctors letter that you are suffering from back pain caused by working all day at your desk.
The general view is less about prevention and more about ticking a box to prevent employer liability. And this response isn’t just from small businesses. For some employees, the bureaucratic hoops that you have to jump through are too much and they sit and suffer in pain, year after year. If left unchecked this can go one step further and actually becomes a disability that causes them not to be able to work anymore.
Fortunately, this ridiculous situation is not in every workplace. Some employers are more progressive and recognise that the general sitting position of shoulders hunched down and the neck protruding forward is not a good position to be in all day and is not healthy for their employee’s spine or posture. Nor is it good for employees productivity and the business bottom line.
In the US, about a quarter of all major employers deliver some form of meditation or yoga within the workplace. It is recognised that regular yoga classes can help relieve some of the tightness in the hips and legs, and neck, shoulder and back pain that often arises from our desk-bound jobs.
A study on the Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace workplace found that “Yoga for employees may improve health-related quality of life, reduce disability associated with back pain and provide a potentially cost-effective option for employers.”
Since yoga works on the mind and the body, the other benefit of regular yoga is stress relief. Stress is the biggest cause of work-related time off in the UK.
The researchers found that: “Those who improved the most were participants who also practised yoga at home for an average of 60 minutes or more each week. Ten minutes or more a day of home practise was associated with doubling the reduction in back pain, and many participants noted that it helped them to better manage stress too.”
Has yoga helped you with work-related back pain or stress? If so we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment in the comments section below.
Recommended: Also read our blog Yoga for lower back pain.
Top Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash.