As of January 2023, the average American adult spends about 7 hours looking at screens per day. Our day is often intertwined with our phones and computers. Whether you are looking at a computer screen or cell phone, excessive screen time has been shown to cause digital eye strain, and impaired sleep with negative effects to mental health. In addition, “too much sitting” with increased screen time is known to be detrimental to a person’s health and well-being.
Today we are unintentionally encouraged to be sedentary and challenged to be more active at the same time. Let’s find a way to allow a few moments of physical activity in our day rather than focus on how to make more time to exercise. Instead of thinking the only way to be active is to spend an hour at the gym, let’s approach it in a simpler manner.
This short article gives you a few ideas or reminders that can be easily incorporated in your daily schedule:
- Simply take five minutes of break every half hour during periods of prolonged sitting. Stand up and stretch. Standing up while chatting on the phone is a good start.
- Studies have shown that five minutes of walking every half hour of prolonged sitting can offset some aches and joint pain from being in one position too long. These small amounts of walking can decrease the constriction of muscles from prolonged inactivity. Keith Diaz, a professor of behavioral medicine explains that being stationary restricts your muscles from contracting and operating optimally which helps in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels. That is long-term prolonged sitting with excessive screen time is an occupational hazard and affects productivity and work performance.
Do you suffer from poor posture? How about feeling more tension on your neck, upper back and shoulders from prolonged sitting? The body’s complex musculo-skeletal network cannot handle the unnatural forward head and prolonged slouched sitting postures. It is strenuous to counteract its demands to maintain an upright posture, because it is the whole axial skeleton, comprised of the head, spine and rib cage that holds our erect posture. No wonder our breathing also suffers when our body is held in a prolonged forward head or slouched posture.
3. Take time to S T R E T C H. Stand up and stretch. Spend a few minutes. Stretch your arms overhead. Do some shoulder rolls, shoulder squeezes and shrugs, sway your hips, move your head and neck in various directions and leg stretches. Don’t forget to move your eyes away from the screen, look up and down, and side to side.
Some studies have given a guideline of 2-3 minutes standing break every half hour of sitting (if you are sitting at work all day).
4. B R E A T H E. There are many apps and information on breathing techniques. Depending on what your need, here is an easy place to start:
Get a timer and set it for 10 minutes. Ideally the room is quiet. Stand up and do some easy stretches to prepare yourself to sit for a few minutes. Sit at the edge of a chair, and lay hands on your lap, heels and soles of feet flat on the floor. Eyes can be half-open or closed. Notice your breathing pattern. Allow yourself to breathe slowly, inhale and exhale out through the nose. Observe and quietly adjust your body so you are not holding tension on your belly, shoulders or chest. Allow some movements and don’t feel you have to sit up very straight. Finish this ten minute experience in a calm manner. Allow you experience to stay with as you return to your work. Try to keep a regular and consistent time of the day and practice this intentional breathing as part of your daily routine at work (work at home).
5. Raise your screen. Raise your phone or computer screen. This will limit your head from nodding forward or limit forward head, “tech neck” strained posture. Tech neck symptoms can be severe depending on each person and can show up as tight chest muscles and increased pressure on spinal nerves.
Having a wireless keyboard gives you options to keep hands at a lower level, and computer screen at eye level.
6. Check your chair. Do you have a head rest? Try sitting and feel what an ergonomic chair feels like. Having a support for your head and neck, and whole spine can prevent problems associated with prolonged sitting or tech neck.
7. On your non-work days, when you are not required to use your computer or phone:
Make time to walk longer. Spend time with family and friends face-to-face. Attend a yoga class. Take a nap. Start that hobby you have been planning to do. Do some gardening. Spend time in nature. Cook. Dance. Declutter your house. Do you have any suggestions on how to get away from your screen as much as possible?
Lastly, ask yourself these questions to determine if your screen time has become excessive:
- Are you sleeping well?
- Are you eating well?
- Are you leaving the house and being social?
- Is your work going well?
- Are you physically active?
Questions are from Yalda T. Uhls, professor of psychology at UCLA
The earlier we can address the symptoms the less likely it will become more serious. Remote work and the requirement to be on computers or mobile phones is here to stay. Thus, we have to be creative in staying active. Counteracting the negative effects of prolonged sitting and excessive screen time is easier than you think.
About our Contributor:
Dr. Amelia Chang, DPT, E-RYT.
Amelia brings a wealth of experience to make the practice of Yoga accessible to everyone.
As a Dr. of Physical Therapy, she is in a unique position to offer Yoga Therapeutics in the Iyengar tradition and physical rehabilitation or injury-prevention. Her workshops and classes are geared towards Healthy Aging, with use of yoga wall, props and Meditation.
Find Amelia teaching at:
Prana Yoga La Jolla, “Healthy Back class” Sat 11:30-12:30
SouthPark Wellness and Yoga
“Healthy Back & Shoulders” Sun 4-5 pm
Yin & Restorative Sun 5:15-6:15
Private sessions at 90 mins each.
Connect with Amelia: www.ameliacantorchang.com
Enjoy viewing healthy lifestyle tips on You Tube channel: YOGALIFE with Amelia
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