On 20th April 2021 at 4PM, I am invited by the NZZ FutureHealth Forum in Basel (Switzerland) to give a webinar on the 3 Rules of Posture and their application to working from home. The conference is free and open to the public! Click here to get the link.
Abstract: Much has been said on working from home and its impact on your lower back or your neck… but one question remains: how much have you learned that will help you protect your body on the long run? In this session, Olivier Girard will tell you about a simple yet universal framework called the 3 Rules of Posture. It applies to working from home, to working from the office, to manual handling and any other daily life activity, whether at work or at home. Adults should know about it, as well as children. White collar workers as well as blue collar workers. Join us for a truly empowering session in which you’ll learn how to use and protect your body, right now as well as in the future… Be ready to look at posture and ergonomics from a brand new angle!
If you speak German, check my interview in the NZZ!
Vacuuming, cleaning under furniture, carrying: these are all activities in which many of you hurt yourself at home. Imagine what it is like for those whose job it is!
To better help them, Olivier Girard is partnering in Switzerland with Batmaid, a start-up company dedicated to improving the working conditions of home-based cleaning women. On June 26, we hosted a workshop at a cocktail reception at the Batmaids of Lausanne; we repeat the exercise in Geneva on July 4th. To join us, check with Batmaid.
Sitting on a gym ball (aka. Swiss ball, exercise ball, yoga ball or posture ball) is in fashion, but is it really the healthy choice for your spine? Let's go back to the basics and see if the promise of relieving lower back pain is kept...
what is a good sitting posture?
When you sit well, your sitting posture fulfills these two conditions:
The first posture below (on the sitting bones and against the lumbar support) fulfills the requirements, but not the next ones
Some people think that using a fitness ball as an office chair is the only way to feel comfortable. Very often, I observe that they don't know how to adjust their chair or that they sit for too long in a row (i.e. more than 30 min). Check out this video to discover how to adjust your ergonomic office chair well!
what happens when sitting on a ball at work?
Bringing your heels backwards is also the idea behind a kneeling chair: to avoid slouching, let's hollow the back! Another bad idea, as I explain in this video...
Does sitting on a ball help your back?
You could think that if you know how to sit on an exercise ball, you will train your back muscles. This is another misunderstanding of what sports is: high intensity, short duration, prolonged rest. Sitting on an exercise ball at work is the very contrary of this: it does not create the cardiovascular benefits of sports, but rather tissue inflammation (see The physical activity paradox, by Andreas Holtermann).
does this mean you should ban gym balls?
No, it doesn't. The problem isn't the ball: it's how long and how frequently you'll be sitting on your exercise ball at the office.
My advice is: if you like your gym ball, use it... but only 10 min at a time, max 3-4 times a day, and during activities that do not require an intense concentration. See it as a tool to train sitting position despite unstable conditions, not as some kind of "fitness office chair".
so, how to sit on a ball at the desk?
To hold the pelvis in this neutral posture, you should engage the lower transverse abs (under the navel): if you bring them slightly inwards, you increase the pressure around the lower spine, which stabilizes it. This muscle effort explains why you can't sit for too long on a gym ball.
how about a chair with a ball for seat?
so... a yoga ball for all?
A yoga ball, gym ball, exercise ball, posture ball or whatever name you want to give it is therefore a training tool, not an office chair.
Hence, I do not recommend that companies invest in yoga balls instead of individually adjusted ergonomic office chairs. To choose well, have a look at this video and these technical specifications.
As an individual, you may use a gym ball to train sitting position, when your mind is not busy somewhere else.
I believe that we should invest in expensive things only when there's no other choice: an ergonomic office chair is a must work in proper conditions but for the rest, I prefer to get postural variation from adapting my working style (e.g., stand for phone calls and video conferences) and taking short but frequent breaks during which I practice this short exercise for effective muscle relaxation. The less I depend on "things", I more free I am.
To feel durably better and avoid wasting money on costly accessories, join the Online Posture Programs, the only empowering offer to correct your posture!
A recurring question usually comes when I train office workers: what is the right distance to the desk when sitting? The picture below illustrates 3 situations that I will comment below: at the right distance, a bit too close, much too close.
"Text neck" is an umbrella concept to describe the neck (and head) symptoms of those spending too much time on their smartphone (typically to write text messages). The March 2017 issue of the Spine Journal rings the alarm bell: practitionners notice an increase in the prevalence of the issue.
We absolutely agree on the fact that mobile screen devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are a health hazard. Our main and most effective recommendation is therefore to limit their usage time. One way to do so is to call rather than to text, another one is to send vocal messages (e.g., via Whatsapp) rather than to type. Teenagers need particular attention from adults in this respect.
Once this is done, it is indeed true that raising the phone helps avoiding a forward head posture. However, holding the phone at eye level may also create strain in the neck and shoulders area. Hence, placing the phone on an elevated surface (e.g., shelf), inclined if possible, is surely a healthier option.
Finally, a good body awareness will help you keeping the neck aligned: make sure that your thoracic spine is not rounded, that your shoulders are not pushed forward, and that you keep your chin drawn slightly inwards. It will also help you slowing down when your body tells you it has enough...
Many people and companies purchase office chairs without really knowing how to recognize good ones from less good ones. Let's have a look at what field experience teaches us.
First of all, never buy a chair without testing it: online, everything looks beautiful and comfortable. Secondly, there is a difference between buying a chair for one person and buying a chair for a population. If you buy it for one employee, the chair may be less adjustable, as long as it is the right size! If you buy it for a population, it needs to fit a wider range of morphologies. Hence, the adjustment ranges may need to be larger. These technical specifications will help you choose a chair for a population.
Bear in mind that the more adjustment possibilities, the bigger the risk that it is not adjusted properly. One may rightfully ask whether more is always better. On the video below, you will discover the usual adjustments possibilities of a good office chair.
Next, let's see the usual flaws of many chairs on the market:
An office chair will last for many years (8-10). If you have the cash (400-800€), I advise you to buy a good one: the real monthly cost is actually quite low. Some shops also offer reconditioned or used quality office chairs, which are often a better deal than a new cheap chair.
Many brands are on the market. Here are two recommendations:
Dr. Vera Baadjou (university of Maastricht, the Netherlands) has been granted a prestigious award for a scientific study that was designed and performed in close cooperation with the TIPM and Mrs. Ans Samama: she will receive the Alice G. Brandfonbrener Young Investigator Award at the June 2017 conference of the Performing Arts Medicine Association.
The Presto project aims at measuring the health impact of a prevention program based on the "Mensendieck 3.0 method". The target population consists of conservatory musicians in the Netherlands. The intervention program is compared to a traditional physical activity program.
Participating in such projects shows our commitment to reinforcing the scientific documentation of the mechanisms and benefits of posture therapy.
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