Off the Wall, September
28, 2012

When it was brought to my attention that my son was getting up in the world and accomplishing much at his job at the Giant Eagle corporate office, to say the least, I was proud of him. But what I failed to comprehend at first was that his “getting up” was two-fold – not only doing a great job for which he was hired, but also standing while he computes. I thought to myself, I’m going to attempt to do that. In other words, “like son, like father.”

Of course, two questions surfaced immediately, “Why would anyone want to stand while he was using the computer.” “Wouldn’t that be uncomfortable?”

The first answer says it all. It is healthier for the back, especially for those (like me) who has issues with that area. In the long run, I heard about the benefits and a smile came to my face. I thought to myself, “I’m going to do this, by golly!”

But before I got out my carpentry tools, I decided to seek advice from a close friend who was a local chiropractor and let him weigh in on the subject. The doctor to whom I am referring is Phillip Westerbeck, one of two chiropractors who own Westland Clinic of Chiropractic on Daily Ave. in the Lincoln Road Shopping Complex. This is what he had to say:

“The World Health Organization estimates that a sedentary life style (whereby one sits in one place requiring little to no movement) is more detrimental to long term health than smoking. This may seem hard to believe, but it is true. While there is no argument that smoking is detrimental to health, sedation by far contributes to the development of more chronic diseases. Diabetes, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, arthritis, obesity, depression, sleep disorders, and musculoskeletal pain are just a few disorders that can be the result of sedation.”

He goes on to state, “Yet as a society, we seem driven to make every task in life easier to perform. From a remote for TV, to power windows, anything that requires less effort sells. Convenient, yes, but at what price to our health? Perhaps one of the most over looked conveniences that contributes to more health problems is that miraculous invention – the chair! The human body is designed to be upright (bipedal) and in motion, the chair creates a diametrically opposite function.” “Can you see the problem?” he said.

Continuing, “Think about how many hours a day one spends seated. Take the average 30-minute commute to work, eight hours at a desk, the drive home, and the average two hours in front of the TV. Some people spend half of their day on their duff. Then they try and sleep for eight hours. Is it any wonder that obesity is an epidemic in this country?”

Furthering his commentary, he said, “Not only does the chair promote sedation, the seated position is also highly detrimental to posture and function of the spine. As a chiropractor I deal with back pain on a daily basis, I see first hand the effect of a sedentary life style and particularly one that requires prolonged sitting, has on the human body. After 18 years in practice, I firmly believe that prolonged sitting is one of the main contributors to back pain.”

He concluded by stating, “Now, I’m not abdicating that we burn all our chairs and start riding horses to work, but we should take a hard look at our life style and find ways to incorporate more motion in our day. Even small changes can have a big effect,” he said.

So hearing what he had to say, I decided to do that. Instead of sitting at my computer and typing out these columns weekly, I decided to squelch those screams coming from my back. Instead of sitting in that wonderful, comfortable, rotating chair, I built a square box to rest by keyboard on that is now elevated some 20 inches. I then procured a small wooden box from a vendor at the Farmer’s Market, set my monitor on it and tried my new approach to my life style. I am now an upstanding citizen of Latrobe and feel better mentally and physically.

I’ve become an “up and comer.” The idea from sitting and having nagging backaches
was all that I could take. The idea of “vert-I-go” was exciting and really has paid off.

With every change come pros and cons. The pros far outweigh the cons. Here are some added pointers that I found helped improve the change.

Position a box, preferably wooden or hard plastic on the floor so that one foot can rest on it so that the strain is removed from the back. I found that if it is moved from side to side, then one can shift feet. Second, don’t plan on being in front of the computer too long. It is better to move around and then come back, so too much stiffness doesn’t set in. Go eat an apple, for example, and then return. You will feel much better in the long run. And third, make sure your eyes are looking straight ahead to the monitor. Any other position will tire the neck.

Next time when you see me, maybe you, too, will exclaim, “Vert-I–go!”

- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.