Just as you would want to teach your children healthy eating habits and encourage them to be active from a young age, it is equally important to take the proper measures to help them avoid musculoskeletal problems later in life. With my oldest daughter about to start elementary school next fall, it’s got me thinking. I remember my niece coming by our house one day after class hauling along a heavy backpack full of textbooks and her laptop. When she set it down on the couch, I could clearly tell it had been hurting her. I couldn’t help but wonder just what kind of long term effects carrying all that weight around on her back day after day throughout 4 years of college would have. We discussed it briefly but I had no real solutions to offer her at the time. After all, she needed to have her laptop and textbooks with her for school. The best I could come up with was to suggest a rolling backpack, but she scoffed at the idea.
When you’re young, muscle and joint problems seem like they’re a million light years away. I, unfortunately, discovered otherwise. What you subject your body to now will have later consequences. So I’ve scoured the web for some better suggestions to give my niece, as well as my own children when the time comes. Us citizens of Bentonville are thorough with our research. For now, they still only need to worry about carrying around a pencil case and a light notebook, which they are more than capable of handling.
Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, here are some ideas to help lighten the load of your book bag:
- Use a rolling backpack – I know they don’t look particularly “cool” but they are convenient and easy to use as long as you don’t need to climb many stairs during the school day. It is well worth it to avoid the potential back and shoulder pain of a traditional book bag if you have to carry around a lot of textbooks or other heavy items.
- Go paperless – many textbooks are now available online or for download. Rather than carrying several heavy textbooks, you can access all of your textbooks at any time using your Kindle, iPad, or laptop. If you must have a hardcopy, keep it at school and use the electronic version at home.
- Make photocopies – Copy the pages that you need from your textbook and carry those around with you instead. Keep your textbook safely at home or in your locker at school.
- Buy duplicates – Used books can often be purchased at a much lower cost than a brand new textbook. If you can find used copies at a reasonable price, opt to buy two used versions so you can keep one at home and one at school. Many times, the previous edition of a textbook is only slightly different than the most current one, and is a viable option when you are looking for a secondary textbook to keep at home.
This is a topic I know all too well. As someone who spent my time at work confined to a desk only to go home and sit myself right down again in front of the TV or computer, I had little knowledge of the harm it was doing to my health. It is a problem that has only recently gained widespread attention. Now that the information is out there, it is important to rethink our daily habits and routines in order to mitigate further damage to our bodies. I love gaming and I’m not looking to quit my job anytime soon, so the only solution is to figure out how to be smarter about the way I sit and incorporate new, healthier habits into my routine. No one should have to go through the pain and discomfort I endured to learn the same lesson that I did. Instead, I’d like to share the information I’ve gathered from my experience with you, to help you avoid future health problems.
Here are a few ideas for how you can reduce the harm done by sitting for extended periods of time. Whether you are playing video games, studying, working, or engaging in some other activity that has you seated for hours at a time, consider adjusting your computer desk and posture, as well as taking timely breaks to mitigate some of the ill effects caused by sitting. These tips are compiled from the advice given to me by my doctor and chiropractor here in Bentonville, Arkansas, and trusted sources on the web.
- Get out of your seat at every opportunity. If it doesn’t require you to be seated, then don’t be. Take a short walk or do a few exercises during your break rather than checking your social media accounts or browsing the web. Stand up and walk around your office while you are taking a phone call. Rather than emailing a coworker about something, get up and go speak to them in person if possible. Many of us take short breaks just to lean back and collect our thoughts or have a drink of water throughout the day. Instead of doing that while sitting, take a few seconds to stand up and stretch yourself out.
- Fix your posture. If you must be seated, the very least you can do for your body is make sure that your posture is correct. Rest your elbows on the arm rest to take the strain off your shoulders. Make sure that the height of your chair allows you have your forearms parallel to the floor and your feet rested flat on the floor. If your feet do not touch the ground, use a footstool or other object to rest your feet on. Uncross your legs, only crossing them at the ankle if you must.Your eyes should be level with the top line of text on your computer or laptop to avoid neck strain. If necessary, adjust your monitor or use books to prop it up higher. Move your keyboard and mouse so that they are both within a comfortable distance for you to use without having to reach.
I’ve been an avid gamer for as long as I can remember. Like most kids, I enjoyed arcades and video games growing up. And while many kids grew out of the habit after college, I never did. I continued to spend my free time after work glued to the TV or computer. It’s what entertained me and helped me pass the time. To this day, it’s still my favorite thing to do whenever I have a spare minute… Although those are getting harder to come by now that I have two young children and a lovely wife.
Shortly before getting married, I had started to experience frequent and severe neck and back pains. It began as a mild annoyance that I was all too eager to ignore, but quickly progressed in intensity and length. Soon, it had escalated to the point where there were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t understand why it was happening. I was only 34 at the time, and had not suffered any prior back injuries. My day to day life was relatively sedentary without any strenuous physical activity that could have possibly triggered the pain.
That – as it turned out – was a misguided belief. My sedentary lifestyle was the reason for my aches and pains. Eight hours of sitting at a desk job, only to come home and sit for an additional 3-4 hours each night was the reason that my neck and back were now declaring war on me. It wasn’t long after that when I started to see headlines about how “sitting is the new smoking”. Like most people, I knew that a lack of exercise was bad and I had no delusions about my fitness level, but I would never have been able to guess how harmful the simple act of sitting could be to my health. Studies suggest that exercise cannot compensate for the ill effects of sitting for extended lengths of time, which means even for someone who leads an active lifestyle outside of work, those long hours behind the desk during the week can still be detrimental.
With a better grasp of the negative impact that my daily routine was having on my body, I made a decision to change my lifestyle and find a way to reduce the amount of time spent sitting. I went to go see a chiropractor about treating the problems I was already experiencing, and have had a great deal of success overcoming my chronic pain and stiffness. I feel much healthier, and am now able to fully enjoy my life without being hindered by back problems. I am writing this blog to help others who find themselves spending hours a day in a seated position, whether because of their job, or their hobbies. I’m going to share the tips and information I’ve learned to help you practice healthier habits without giving up what you love.