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Feb 2, 2012

Healthy Living says stand up and stretch

Chances are you may be sitting and watching this newscast and if you’ve been locked in for the past hour, then here’s some very important medical advice: you need to stand up and stretch. You’ll find out more about how prolonged sitting takes its toll on your body in this week’s Healthy Living.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

After a long day at work most of us feel wired to get home and seek the nearest comfortable seat and rest. If you’re a person who moves around very frequently during the day, then you may need it; but for many who work in offices, it’s really just swapping out one seat for the next. A practice which physiotherapist Michelle Trejo says can do damage to your body.

Michelle Trejo, Physiotherapist

Michelle Trejo

“People assume that sitting is a resting position. You are not designed to sit for eight hours; you were not designed to do that. So you have to understand that every forty to forty-five minutes. You owe it to your body to move it.”

Trejo is a physiotherapist who’s been practicing in Belize for over twenty years. In the past two to five years of her practice she has seen an increase in the number of patients who sit for extended periods of time; most of which work in offices.

Michelle Trejo

“We see patients in trauma an orthopedics, fractures and sprains. We see neurology: stroke, which means peripheral nerve injuries. We also children with cerebral palsy. So there are different classifications. But having been here for a long time, what I can definitely say, there is a huge of rise in repetitive strain injuries meaning people who work in office are having cumulative effects of sitting too long in front of their computers.  A repetitive strain injury refers to an injury caused by doing the same thing over and over again and this is directly connected to the people who sit in front of the computer at an angle for example on a daily basis or who sit in a chair that is too big, or too short or the people who have their hands in the same position everyday for five days a week. Sitting at a desk all day long will increase the percentage of back pain; you’ll get shoulder pain, neck pain, vision, problems with circulation, problems with your feet and all of these things are complications of when you sit too long.”

Sitting for a prolonged time, isn’t the only danger of desk jobs, there are a few more harmful practices that we take for granted. They include: lighting, computer placement and your chair.

Michelle Trejo

“Lighting in a work space is very important simply because if you don’t have proper lighting, you’ll be peering into your computer, meaning your neck will always be in a forward position; if you have proper lighting you’ll constantly have problems with your vision.  If you start having neck pain, more often than not it’s because your computer is not directly in front of your and at eye level, if it’s too low, you’re looking down. If your arms are too low and not at the proper let—close to your body and ninety-degrees—then your shoulder sags. The right hand is usually the mouse hand if you are right-handed which is dominant, you will find people usually get problem with your wrist. I’m sure you can see around, there are some cute mouse pads with little wrist rests made out of gel. That is precisely to prevent your wrist from constantly sagging like this. The other one is the chair; it has to be fitted to you. It is supposed to be fitted to you meaning that the backrest needs to have a particular measurement. The depth the height—you should have an adjustable armrest, you should have an adjustable level for height because your feet are supposed to be flat on the ground. So the chair is also important.”

Periodic stretches and exercising at your desk is also important; as well as keeping good posture. Trejo strongly advises office workers and others to do core strengthening exercises to keep the body conditioned.

Michelle Trejo

“You need to take breaks every thirty minutes and the break has to be one to two minutes. In one to two minutes you can do stretches for your arms. In front of you above your head, you can stretch your neck from side to side; you can open your arms wide and stretch your chest from sitting at all times like that. You can do tip toes just to improve circulations in your calves. You can do squats in front of your desk at least ten times a day. I don’t buy the excuse that you don’t have time to exercise. It is true that if you want to burn calories, you need to exercise at least twenty minutes a day. But for you to correct the strain of being in a certain position all day long, you don’t need a whole hour to get that done; you need to five to ten minutes at the very most. People who sit assume that it is a passive position but it’s not; it’s a very active position. You have to have good core muscles in order to maintain and it is not hyper extending the back. A lot of times you say stand straight and the first thing people do is throw the shoulder back, but that is not what you need for good posture—you need core. Once you get the core going, then everything else comes into place.”

Her suggestion for people who have flexibility in their workplace is to use a stability ball instead of an office chair. This can greatly increase core muscles and relieve some of the common injuries caused by your chair. Just be sure to get a ball that matches your height.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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