Cape Town based biokineticist Simone Sittig demonstrates how to set up a treadmill desk so that you – and your body – get the most out of it. “There’s no point in getting the tools if the basics aren’t right,” says Simone. “Posture remains key!” Still seated? Keep reading… some of the tips are applicable to traditional office desks too.
THE UPPER BODY
Start out with your elbows almost directly under (in line with) your shoulders. This is the most natural stance for the upper body when it is at rest. You want to work with the line of gravity, allowing it to naturally bring your shoulders down. Lift your chest at all times. “Show off your diamond necklace!” is the postural cue Simone uses with clients.
As soon as you start reaching your elbows forward [see above right], you recruit your shoulder muscles – leading to tight shoulders and neck at the end of the day. And, as your arms pull you forwards, it’s almost impossible not to slouch from your mid-back.
Your forearms should be at right angles to your upper arms. If it feels more comfortable, wrists can be slightly lower than elbows, but never higher. Again, this is about using gravity to keep your shoulders from bunching up at your ears. (Chances are you suddenly dropped your shoulders on reading this!) What’s more, if your wrists are flipped upwards all day, you’re probably hyper-extending them, and risk a repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Always stand (or sit) close to your desk, with your tummy almost touching it. Then rest your hands on the desk so that your fingers are free to type. Any movement of the mouse should be done by rotating the elbow rather than pulling on the shoulder. This way your elbows remain in line with your shoulders.
If you’re working on a laptop, you’re going to need a separate keyboard and mouse so that you can raise your screen. There are some pretty funky height adjustable platforms around, but you can also just pop your laptop (or desktop screen) on a stack of old telephone books. Your screen should be at eye level after you have tucked your chin in slightly. Don’t just line up your eyes with the middle of your screen as some experts suggest – you want to be able to lengthen the back of your neck while working. Simone describes the ideal gaze as “peering underneath your eyelids”.
LET’S GET MOVING! (THE LOWER BODY)
“Movement is medicine,” says Simone. “When you are static or seated for long periods of time, the body shuts down, the organs compress, the cardiovascular system slows down, and the spine rounds. Movement stimulates circulation and keeps the joints oiled. The body loves movement! It thrives on movement.”
Start slowly, at a speed as low as 1 km/hr. “This is not about getting a workout,” says Simone. “It’s about being mobile. You don’t want to be conscious of the fact that you’re moving. You’re just activating – mobilising – the body.”
Be careful not to “stomp” in one spot. Use a full stride when walking, extending all the way into the toe of the back leg. This activates the bum and helps keep lower back pain at bay.
“When you’re upright, moving forward with eyes ahead, you’re more alert,” says Simone. “This is a primal state for the body.” Feeling energised and more productive are just some of the positive effects of keeping mobile throughout the working day. For more benefits of escaping your chair, click here.
If you’d like assistance with aligning your body or setting up your desk, find Simone’s contact details at www.bbbalance.com.