On the Job Wellness: Is your desk job killing you?

It’s spring in Colorado! The weather has been great and many of us have been taking advantage of the warm days to be active. But even on the most gorgeous of days, many of us still fall victim to that perennial fitness killer, the desk job. It doesn’t matter if you do your work in an office, at home, or in a coffee shop, if you spend a significant part of your day hunched over a computer, sitting in meetings or trapped on conference calls, you know how hard it can be on your body. Unfortunately, research shows it may actually be worse than you think.

But no matter the weather, what about that perennial fitness killer, the desk job, that impacts so many of us? It doesn’t matter if you do your work in an office, at home, or in a coffee shop, if you spend a significant part of your day hunched over a computer, sitting in meetings or trapped on conference calls, you know how hard it can be on your body.

Unfortunately, it may actually be worse than you think. Consider these findings:

Nike shared a study which found that five or more hours of sedentary sitting is the health equivalent of smoking more than a pack of cigarettes! In fact, there are numerous studies that connect extended sitting with increased risk of heart disease, and obesity, among other things, including death!

Spending too much time staring down at your phone can also have a negative impact on your health. NBC’s Today Show recently reported that by tilting our heads forward – in the way that many of us do when checking our phones – up to 60 pounds of force is exerted on the neck, which can lead to “early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

Of course these are just two of many reasons why people in general – and Americans in particular – do less and weigh more than we did 50 years ago, starting with the mechanization of many jobs, and most recently with the automation and digitization of most of our daily tasks.

We could just boil this down to the conclusion that the Internet is making us sick. But then so are elevators, cars, drive-thrus of all varieties and many other “conveniences” that keep us from (gasp!) standing, walking, climbing or stretching as we go about our day.

Thankfully, if we can create 21st century problems, we can also find modern solutions. We’ve put together four “Life Hacks” – ranked from lowest level of commitment to highest – to make on-the-job fitness part of your daily routine

  1. Simply Stand Up: Try to avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time. That’s not just an arbitrary number. 20 minutes has been shown to be the magic amount of time before your body starts to exhibit a physiological impact from sitting.  Here’s how it works: you use the muscles in your legs and back to stand, which in turn increases the enzymes that break up fat in the blood stream, reports Susan Enfield of the Delicious Living Blog. In addition, standing (yes, just standing) helps our bodies process glucose better and burn calories, which helps to reduce weight gain.
  2. Practice good posture at work (+everywhere else): Regardless of if you are sitting or standing, or texting. Good posture can be practiced at work, on the plane or while driving your car and posture is a life (and pain) saver. Pay special attention to the time you spend texting, and eliminate all that extra pressure on your spine (and your thumbs).
  3. Walk more. Many studies show that those who walk 30-60 minutes on most days are far more likely to maintain their weight and reduce related risk factors. But even if you can’t manage 30 minutes every day, walk whenever and where ever you can: take a 60 second walk between meetings, or better yet, host a walking meeting. Avoid emailing people who are in walking distance from your desk – go see them instead. Park further from the entrance of your office or train station, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Colorado even has a “flat 14ers” program that encourages adults and children to be active by tracking their movement and measuring their progress on virtual 14ers (a nod to the 58 Colorado peaks that are 14,000 feet or higher).
  4. Redesign your desk. Did you see this CBS This Morning segment a few months ago? While the “walking” got a little out of hand, walking desk stations are not a gimmick. It’s not for everyone, but it is a trend that’s growing. But before you invest in a high end walking workstation, or try to create your own DIY version, check out the great advice, how tos and FAQs on workwhilewalking.com.

5 tips to spring into outdoor running season

Spring is in the air, and there are dozens of area runs that signal a start to the summer running season. Although Colorado weather allows for nearly year-round running, it’s this time of year that runners are ramping up and getting ready outside for greater distances and frequency. As you tune up, here are five tips to keep you moving forward.

  1. Ramp up slowly. Especially if you’ve only been hitting the treadmill occasionally all winter, let’s face it; running outside just isn’t the same. (Hills anyone?) Ease into increases in distance and frequency. Whether a novice or experienced runner, gradual increases that reflect your ability and fitness are keys to sustained commitment and progress.
  2. Find the best running surfaces. Runners are often creatures of habit, which usually means extensive time on the same surface.  If you  spend most of your time on pavement, it’s time to find some softer routes to include in your routine. Softer surfaces (dirt trails, grass, turf and yes, even the treadmill) offer a great break to your routine and your body and should be included once a week.
  3. Know what kind of runner you are.  And no, we don’t mean fast or slow. Understanding if your feet tend to roll inward (pronation) or outward (supination) can help you to keep logging the miles by wearing the right type of shoe, or supporting orthotic, if needed. Learn how to determine your type with the wet foot test
  4. Avoid Overuse. Runners get the most out of their body when they listen to its needs. We are often the most focused on how our bodies respond during a run, but pay attention to the before and after. Warm ups set the stage for a good run, and when your run is done, remember your body isn’t. Proper refueling, rest and stretching will improve your recovery.
  5. Know when to replace your shoes. If you wait until you see sole breakdown, you’re too late. A good rule of thumb for shoe replacement is every 300-400 miles. When the midsoles of your shoes begin to breakdown, your stability and cushion declines and you are at risk for injury, especially joint and knee damage. Regular runners have good instincts and when they begin to experience unusual fatigue or shin pain, so listen to your body: it may be reminding you to take a closer look at your equipment.

Running offers many rewards and running in Colorado is an extra bonus. As you shake off the winter blues and hit the road this month, responsible preparation and planning will keep you on the road all summer long.

Baseball season is officially here

Baseball season is officially here. The Rockies home opener is today, and youth seasons at all levels are underway. Here in Colorado, there’s a lot of discussion about a new rule that will go into effect to protect high school pitchers in 2016 – a maximum pitch count rule.

The limit, adopted by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) in January, limits the total number of pitches a player can throw in a single day based on their age (new and original American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) guidelines correlate age and number of pitches thrown) and requires a minimum number of day’s rest depending on the number of pitches thrown.

CHSAA’s move is in line with The National Federation of High School Associations, who has had a general rule about protecting pitchers on their books for some time. Rule 6-1-6 says: “Each state association shall have a pitching restriction policy to afford pitchers a reasonable rest period between pitching appearances.”

But today, most high schools around the country apply a rule around innings, rather than pitch count. Original literature on the topic has shown the number of pitches thrown as the risk factor with the strongest correlation to injury with 5 percent of youth pitchers sustaining a career ending injury or an injury necessitating surgery within 10 years.

So why pitch count? And what benefit does rest bring? The number of pitches in an inning can vary widely, so pitch count is a much better indicator of workload and corresponding arm fatigue. When a pitcher makes the repeated high velocity motion of throwing off the mound, the ligaments and muscles in and around the shoulder, elbow and wrist can become damaged.

The first indications of injury are often minor including fatigue, soreness or more persistent pain, and the inability to maintain proper form and rhythm such as an upright trunk or, dropped elbow during pitching, or even increased time between pitches. Performance begins to suffer too; overworked pitchers often lose ball velocity and accuracy.

Proper rest allows muscles and joints to heal. Often, supra-physiologic loads are being placed on a developing joint during what has become a very competitive sporting atmosphere. Proper rest allows the soft tissues around that joint time to return to their normal resting state thus allowing a chance to not only heal, but in theory, to become stronger.

While Colorado is only the second state to adopt the pitch count rule, this is a topic being addressed at all levels of the game. Little League Baseball implemented pitch count limits in 2007, after seeing an increase in elbow and shoulder injuries. And just this past November, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball began working together on a program for youth players.

Seasoned baseball families here in Colorado may have number of questions about the new limits, including how it could impact smaller teams and competitive classes, and the question of who will enforce this new rule.

Its true that limiting players’ work levels over the course of several days could prove challenging for those without a deep bullpen, but injured players limit your depth in a much more damaging way. We also know that enforcement will never be perfect, and it looks like each team will have the responsibility to protect players using the new rule.

To a larger degree, it becomes the responsibility of those overseeing the players (i.e. adult coaches and parents) to acknowledge the fact that long term, irreversible damage can occur at a very young age. Taking steps to limit that damage should be their ultimate goal, and the majority of coaches, trainers, administrators and families know that this is what matters most.

“Keeping our young athletes healthy and avoiding overuse injuries is especially critical while their joints are still developing,” said Dr. Micah Worrell, Advanced Orthopedic upper extremity surgeon. “Major League Baseball has seen an substantial increase in the number of significant shoulder and elbow injuries, costing many promising players years of productive play and in some cases, their careers. The issue is that we now recognize that this isn’t a problem that starts in the big leagues and we need to address it at its core. We need to prevent young athletes from causing irreversible long-term damage.”

So what can youth players do now to protect their arms? “Coaches, parents and players don’t have to wait until next year to start applying guidelines that allow the arm to rest,” says Dr. Worrell. “Recommendations proposed by the American Sports Medicine Institute are readily available online and should be considered. In addition, for those clubs who are not already using some form of pitch count to determine player work loads, now is the time to start. The sooner a team or club can implement at least a minimum pitch count standard not only will the transition be easier, but it will pay dividends toward protecting their players in the future.”