One of the most striking developments in the relatively
quiet field of workplace health this year was that sitting down, as you’re
probably doing now, is literally killing you.
Given that millions of South Africans spend most of their
working life sat in a chair, the importance of this issue cannot be overstated,
but what can one do? Any job that involves working on a computer for long
periods of time is equally likely to involve sitting for just as long. Standing
desks might seem very avant garde but there is literal evidence that they
actually work, and large-scale adoption is highly unlikely.
Instead, solutions need to be found that fit into the way we
currently work, sitting needs to be made less deadly.
Read: Standing breaks at work might prevent back pain
One woman tackling just this problem is Cecily Smith, a
Physiotherapist based in Cape Town who is also the Managing Member of
BodyHealth Software™. Her product is
focused squarely at office workers, students and others who spend large amounts
of time sitting at a desk.
This program took 4 years to create, using illustrators,
animators, IT developers and most importantly, Smith’s professional experience
of ergonomics and injuries in the workplace.
Smith cites four observations that motivated her to create
were sitting badly at work and had no idea of how to sit correctly
ergonomics was very costly for companies and as such was either being avoided,
or was being poorly implemented
were recreating the aches and pains she was treating them for in my practice
through their work environment (bad posture) and their work habits (sustained postures, especially poor ones and
repetitive activities/tasks associated with their job), often creating an
unnecessary pain cycle
were running out of their medical aid and having to live with aches and pains
because they had no way of helping themselves.
Bodyhealth is not only based on science, it’s backed by it.
Smith conducted a clinical trial in 2013 and reports that “I wanted to assess
how well the neck exercises in the software program actually helped office
workers with postural neck pain reduce their symptoms. Results from the trial show that there is a
significant improvement in individuals with postural neck pain who use the neck
pain exercise module.”
Thus, Bodyhealth Software™ has been created to help
individuals who spend long hours in front of the computer ease their aches and
pains. This is accomplished by:
people to sit ergonomically at their workstation
people to move in short bursts, in specific ways, at their computer, to prevent
and reduce specific aches and pains (e.g. neck pain/back pain)
Many people know that they sit incorrectly at their workstation,
but don’t know how to correct their posture and improve their computer
workstation setup. Sitting correctly is an important part in reducing one’s
aches and pains.
Some things that cause these health problems include:
the neck for too long while working (either by looking at papers on the desk or
a screen positioned too low)
the elbows incorrectly (the angle too sharp/close to the body and the keyboard
placed too high in relation to the elbow)
the shoulders while typing/moussing
the monitor too far away causing one to lean forwards too often in the chair
without a back support or not using one’s back support
the chair too low and not using a footrest if necessary
Bodyhealth guides people to be their own ergonomist, so that
they can assess and adjust their computer workstation themselves, to be
correctly positioned ergonomically for better health.
Sitting in the same position for too long, or doing repetitive
activities, especially when the body is poorly positioned, causes fatigue of
the associated body area as well as reducing circulation and oxygen supply to
tissues, which may then result in tissue damage and injuries. Common injuries associated with computer use
are neck and back pain, forearm pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Bodyhealth Software™ provides targeted 30 second exercises
performed at one’s desk throughout the working day. Users determine the frequency of their
exercise as well as the specific injury/stress/no injury exercise module that
they would like to use to help reduce/prevent aches and pains. There are 19
different exercise programmes that are tailored to specific injuries, and can
be selected at any point necessary to help address a problem.
Read: Unpretty sitting
Health24 trialled this software over a month. Running a
website inevitably entails many hours sat at a desk and we were all too aware
of the health risks associated with this. We found the software to be easy to
use and not overly intrusive. Indeed, the sporadic breaks provided a welcome
interruption. At the end of the month several of us had felt a marked
difference in ailments like neck tension and lower back pain. We’ve now adopted
this software full time.
Sitting might be killing you softly, but for the foreseeable
future millions of South African’s will earn their living while doing it.
Software like Bodyhealth could provide a much-needed intervention to minimise
these negative effects as far as possible.
BodyHealth software is available to purchase here.
Image credit: Dead at work by Shutterstock
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