Over the past 200,000 years of human evolution, our bodies have evolved to move. But in the last century (a slither of time compared to human existence), the invention of cars, computers and other technology has allowed humans to spend the majority of the day sitting. 

Excessive sitting is one of the worst things you can ever do for your neck (and whole body for that matter). Prolonged postures put incredible amounts of strain and stress on the muscles, joints and tissues of the body, causing overload and pain.

Beyond neck pain, sitting is also a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, mental health disorders and many types of cancer.

The position you sit in dramatically changes the forces on your neck and how hard your muscles need to work to keep your head on your shoulders.

Your head weighs about 5kg if you have an average sized noggin. When you are sitting with good posture and your head is centred over your body, your neck is working to hold your 5kg melon upright.

Once you begin to slump and your head pokes forward in front of your body (like 99% of people working on computers), your neck is now working 3 times harder to keep your head on your shoulders. Put another way, your neck is now holding up three 5kg watermelons. Sounds like it could get pretty sore, right?

It gets worse. When you begin to look down at your phone to scroll Instagram or use a computer in your lap, your neck is now trying to support 30kg of load (the word lap-top is suddenly much less appealing)! That’s 6 times more load than when your head is resting comfortably on your shoulders (which is what naturally happens in standing). The true weight of your head has obviously not changed, but the amount of effort required by your neck to support your head in this position is the equivalent of holding up a 30kg bowling ball…ouch.

What’s the solution?

Your work isn’t going to do itself, so how do you stay productive and also take care of your body?

The first answer is a sit-to-stand desk. Purchasing a good sit-to-stand desk will save you money on medical bills over the long term, so it’s a solid investment. Check out my personal favourite, Omnidesk (https://theomnidesk.com.au/).

Making it happen

Just like it takes a while to get fit for sport, if you’re not used to standing much throughout the day, then don’t expect it to happen overnight. Getting “stand-fit” can take a few weeks and I’ve included a guide below to help you achieve this. It may seem basic but following this guide will give your muscles and joints a chance to adapt and strengthen so they can support your new dynamic posture!

Week 1: Stand whilst working for at least 10 minutes straight every hour.

Week 2: Stand or walk whilst working for at least 20 minutes straight every hour.

Week 3: Stand or walk for half of every hour (all at once or in smaller chunks)

Week 4: Try to limit sitting to a maximum of 15 minutes per hour

Other strategies to stand and move more

  • Walk and stand in meetings to keep focused and energised
  • Move around whilst you’re on the phone
  • Take the stairs in the office
  • Set a 30-minute reminder on your phone to do a lap of your office/home and get a glass of water
  • Get off the bus or train before your station and walk (or if working from home then walk around the block regularly)
  • Place the phone and rubbish bin out of arm’s reach so you have to move to get to them.

The human body is designed to move regularly, and movement is medicine. This is the first step to becoming NECKcellent.

In health,

Caelum Trott : The NECKspert