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Sitting, standing and moving: the back-friendly office
Sitting correctly - dynamic, not static
Sitting harms the health. The spinal column in particular suffers from the unnatural posture. But this refers primarily to static sitting. One thing is certain: if you have to sit for hours on end every day, then it's best to do this correctly. But how can sitting become more back-friendly?
Office chairs have to fulfil a number of strict criteria in order to be certified with the AGR seal of approval as being particularly back-friendly. The main principle is for the chair to encourage active sitting. The AGR-certified chairs by Dauphin (www.dauphin.com) with the 3D balance principle permit movements to the left and right as well as to the front and back. Sedus (www.sedus.com) makes office chairs according to the similar-swing principle which also permits tilting of the pelvis, thus supporting natural movement impulses. Furthermore, office chairs need a backrest that is high enough, the possibility of synchronising both seat and backrest, and numerous other individual adjustments.
In active sitting furniture such as the spring-mounted swopper and the 3Dee and swopper WORK active office chairs, the 3D ergonomic design by aeris (www.aeris.de/en) ensures natural, spontaneous and intuitive movement in the office.
Standing up instead of sitting for hours
Getting up and walking a few steps now and then is good for the back and helps you concentrate. There's plenty of opportunity to do that - even in the office. Phone calls are ideal for walking around a bit to loosen up your muscles, as long as you have a cordless phone. And who says that meetings always have to be held at a round table? Why not change customs and hold the meeting during a walk outside? More tips for more exercise:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Move the printer and copying machine away from your desk. This gives you another opportunity to get up and walk a few steps.
- Try to integrate new habits in your work routine with new possibilities for getting up and moving around. Go to your colleagues to talk to them in person rather than sending an e-mail. Collect your printouts directly from the printer rather than getting someone else to bring them. All these activities are good for your personal "exercise account".
It also helps to alternate between sitting and standing while working. A standing desk or a desk that is easily adjusted to different positions can be a great help. AGR-certified products here include the standing desks and desks by officeplus (www.officeplus.de) together with desks by Sedus (www.sedus.com) and VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken (www.vs.de/en).
Ergonomic workplace with the right accessories
When it comes to computer accessories, it's the details that count, because mouse and keyboard also influence how you sit. Unergonomic accessories put a strain on the joints in your hands and shoulders and cause pains and tension. AGR-certified computer mouse devices and keyboards by Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/hardware) help to keep the hands and arms relaxed with a positive effect on the posture of the whole body.
Irregular light distribution with shadows and reflections can make the eyes tire quickly. And that's not all. If you are constantly trying to adjust your body to the best possible lighting, you also risk tension in your neck and shoulders. AGR-certified desk lamps by Waldmann (www.waldmann.com) provide widespread, constant low-glare lighting with easy adjustment and a fully variable dimming function. This helps to avoid incorrect posture and protects the eyes from fatigue.
Exercise in the office and active breaks
Exercise is the best for your back - but what if your office job leaves you no time for sport? The AGR recommends integrating a few exercises into your daily work routine. You can also use your lunch break for a bit of office gymnastics which will boost your energy levels in the afternoon.
5 exercises for the office
They don't take much time, effectively prevent tension and compensate for sitting what is often too rigidly in the office. Important: the stretching sensation is highly individual. When stretching, always hold your position when it begins to feel unpleasant and maintain the tension.
Stretching your shoulders. Brief stretching helps to prevent tension. To stretch your back and shoulders, stretch your arms upwards, grasp your left wrist with your right hand and pull your left arm to the right. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then change to the other side.
This is another exercise to stretch your shoulders. Stretch one arm out in front of you; with the other hand, grasp your upper arm and pull it over your body to the side. Hold the tension, then repeat for the other side.
Stretching your upper arms. Stretch your right arm over your head then bend it at the elbow; with your left hand, grasp your elbow joint and pull it towards your left shoulder. Hold the tension for about ten seconds, then repeat for the other side.
Stretching your shoulder and neck muscles. Stretch your arms away from your body and fold your hands. Bend your head forwards until you can clearly feel that you are stretching. Hold the tension.
Sit upright on a chair and stretch your arms forwards. Shake the Brasils for about 30 seconds with short, fast chopping movements. This trains the muscles of your upper arms and back.
Sitting for hours in the office puts a strain not just on your back and on your joints, it is also tiring for your eyes. It can even impair your vision in the long term. This can be prevented with eye training, such as this exercise, for example. Hold an index finger about 15 centimetres from your eyes and the index finger of your other hand about twice as far away. Now fix your eyes on a third object several metres away. Focus your eyes alternately on the index finger of your first hand, the index finger of your second hand and then the third object. Then relax your eyes by closing your eyelids and placing your hands over your eyes with your fingers pointing upwards. Open your eyes again after about one minute.
Small but highly effective trainers: 4 exercises with devices
Sports devices can be small and unobtrusive but still highly effective. This makes them ideal for exercising in the office. The small Brasils by Togu (www.togu.de/en) for example fit in every desk drawer. If you shake them with a small amplitude, their special filling generates a movement feedback that strengthens your arm muscles and can stabilise your whole torso.
The ideal device for a swift massage of the muscles and for loosening the connective tissues is the BLACKROLL® Mini (www.blackroll.com). It offers simple, efficient massage and relaxation particularly for your hands, lower arms and feet while working at your computer all day.
A third utensil that is worth purchasing for the office is the Balanza Ballstep by Togu. It consists of a wooden surface with four air-filled balls fastened to it. Standing on the unstable surface enhances the deep torso muscles and is a dynamic addition to the standing workplace. Tip: share a Balanza Ballstep with your colleagues and use it in turn.
Train the functionality of your back with the outstanding Valedo by Hocoma (www.valedotherapy.com). The program can be easily installed on a modern tablet or smart phone and used for playful exercises during work breaks. Simply apply two sensors to your breastbone and to your lumbar spine. Then follow the course shown on the display, selected according to criteria for specific training of your back muscles. The fun factor is thrown in.
The number of office workplaces is growing constantly, together with a comparable increase in the number of backache patients. This is not just a coincidence, because sitting for hours at the computer puts a considerable strain on our spinal column. Preventing this demands a change of attitude: active sitting on dynamic office chairs is better than static sitting; furthermore, office workers should use every opportunity to stand up and move around now and then. Also advisable: office gymnastics in the workplace. Your back can benefit from just a few small exercises each day lasting no more than a few minutes. Tip: small sport devices for the desk drawer make it more fun to train your back in the office. Just give it a try!
Über AGR e.V.
The Campaign for Healthier Backs has been dedicated to the prevention and therapy of endemic backache for 20 years. Its "certified & recommended" seal of approval is an important decision-making aid for consumers. Various everyday products, including office furniture, accessories or sport devices, can be awarded the seal of approval on fulfilling a strict catalogue of criteria and on being classified as particularly back-friendly by an independent committee of medical and therapeutic experts.
For more information, please go to www.agr-ev.de/en.