You may have heard the “sitting is the new smoking” research. All this desk jockey time is making us sicker than ever and shortening our lifespans. Add in the threat of repetitive stress injuries and chronic pain and it’s no wonder people are now referring to sitting as a disease.
But before you swap your laptop for a career as a smokejumper in the BC wilderness, it’s worth exploring new ways to cope with sitting. Could it be as simple as moving at your desk?
Anat Baniel, a brain and movement specialist trained by somatic awareness pioneer Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, thinks so. She developed Desk Trainer, an interactive, fast-paced online exercise program specifically designed for desk workers.
A computerized cartoon trainer guides users through specific 5-minute exercises intended to help them become aware of changes in pain levels and flexibility and to relate those changes to altered posture and emotional states.
But can a (admittedly adorable) cartoon make a difference?
The Desk Trainer professes that these exercises can reverse repetitive stress injuries and chronic pain, relieve stress and fatigue from sitting long hours on a computer and prevent injuries from happening in the future. If you’re someone who has surrendered to a lifetime of tight shoulders, this can be a way to relieve chronic tension.
Frequent micro-breaks when combined with physical activity can substantially reduce or even eliminate computer-related injuries and pains. But let’s be honest. In a time-scarce work environment it’s doubtful most office workers could find the time to take exercise breaks, let alone remember to peel away from their desks on a regular basis.
This is where technology can help us, rather than hurt us. The Desk Trainer can be programmed to give you regular reminders to get moving (because we all know what will happen if we don’t).
It’s all based on the Anat Baniel method (ABM), a somatic awareness exercise program that suggests slow, conscious movements as a means of rewiring neural patterns in the brain. The body adopts painful, habitual movement patterns as we age. By moving with awareness it becomes possible to relearn the efficient movement patterns of days past, back when you were cartwheeling as a hobby. Current research into brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to grow and change even into old age, provides scientific evidence of ABM’s effectiveness.
Just 50 years ago it was unthinkable that smoking would be banned in bars and restaurants. Our health consciousness has rocketed light years ahead in record time. Today, computers may seem like a harder habit to kick than cigarettes.
You can try to become a sky diving instructor, but if you like your office job, make a habit to exercise while you sit. If your co-workers react to seeing you spinning around in your chair, just tell them you’re putting a “new spin” on the term multitasking.
People love puns as much as they do pain-free lifestyles.