Get Up and Move Too much sitting may be hazardous to your health. An SLP offers tips to get you moving at work. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   February 01, 2018
Get Up and Move
Author Notes
  • Rebecca Bartlett, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a postdoctoral trainee at University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in voice and swallowing. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; and 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). bartlett@surgery.wisc.edu
    Rebecca Bartlett, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a postdoctoral trainee at University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in voice and swallowing. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; and 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). bartlett@surgery.wisc.edu×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   February 01, 2018
Get Up and Move
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23022018.34
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.23022018.34
Exercise. We all know that it’s good for us, physically and mentally. And what can happen when we don’t get it is, frankly, alarming: Sedentary behavior may be an independent risk factor for mortality and other health issues (see sources).
Even if you regularly work out, too much sitting could be a problem. Prolonged sitting is associated with all causes of mortality, even after adjusting for time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, according to a 2012 National Cancer Institute study.
For speech-language pathologists across settings, sedentarism may be an occupational hazard—after all, we spend a good part of our days in sessions and doing paperwork. SLPs in medical and school environments spend approximately 20 percent of the week doing paperwork, according to ASHA’s Health Care Survey Report and ASHA’s Schools Survey Report.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that reducing the health effects associated with sedentarism may be easier than you think: Periodically interrupting prolonged sitting with low-intensity physical activity may improve cardiovascular parameters and glucose metabolism, according to an Australian study on the effects of two minutes of walking for every 20 minutes of sitting.
As behavioral interventionists, SLPs are well-equipped to remedy occupational sedentarism with some awareness and creativity. Try some of these movement-rich ideas.

Prolonged sitting is associated with all causes of mortality, even after adjusting for time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

All work settings
Dynamic workstations. With the focus on standing desks over the past 10 years, sometimes it seems like standing is the new sitting. But maintaining any chronic position—sitting or standing—is problematic because it casts your muscles into specific lengths and your joints into specific positions. Configure your workstation to have sitting and standing options, which allows you to vary the loads experienced by your body. Perhaps your employer will contribute to a height-adjustable desk. Alternatively, you could place a tall box or a stack of books on your desk for a standing option. Aim to have relaxed shoulders, elbows at your sides (rather than in front of you), and neutral wrists.
Standing meetings. Discuss with your team having standing, rather than sitting, meetings. In a 1999 University of Missouri study, sit-down meetings lasted 34 percent longer than standing meetings, yet yielded similar outcomes. The quality of decisions made during meetings did not differ between the standing and sitting groups.
Telephone headset. Using a headset prevents you from cradling the phone in the crook of your neck and frees your body to stretch or walk.
Clothing. Your clothing affects your movement possibilities. Between sessions, are you likely to do a forward bend stretch or a one-minute plank, if you are wearing a tight blazer and high heels? Consider stretchy fabric, looser cuts and shoes with flexible soles.
Pair stretches with daily tasks. Pairing daily activities with specific exercises can be a strong reminder to move. For example, every time you walk through a specific door, you could grab the top of the frame with your fingertips to stretch your upper back and shoulders.
Walk or bike to work. If it’s too far, consider driving part of the way and walking part of the way.
Shorten paperwork sessions. To limit prolonged sitting, plan for shorter paperwork sessions throughout the week rather than one long session.
Eliminate iHunch. Our bodies tend to adapt to the movements that we repeatedly make. Staring at a computer encourages a maladaptive forward head position, lightheartedly referred to as “iHunch.” To counteract this position, keep your eyes level and use your finger to push your chin posteriorly, so that your ears are positioned over your shoulders (see photos above).
Post signs to stretch. It can be awkward to stretch at work if you are the only one doing it. Encourage others to join in by posting signs to designate specific work areas for stretching. Post images of specific stretches, or print these freebies.

In a 1999 study, sit-down meetings lasted 34 percent longer than standing meetings, yet yielded similar outcomes.

Schools
Change up your floor position. Sitting on the floor can strengthen your abdominal muscles and increase hip and spinal flexibility. For example, you could sit with straight legs in a “V” in front of you or kneel with your legs folded underneath you. Floor-sitting can be uncomfortable if you don’t do it often. When you are starting out, lift your hips with a folded towel, blanket, or pillow (see photo above), and periodically vary your position.
Vary how you get up from the floor. The ease with which you can get down to the floor and back up again may be a predictor of mortality. In the late 1990s, a Brazilian team developed the sitting-rising test (SRT). People who scored fewer than eight points on this 10-point test had a two- to five-fold increase in death rate from all causes during the six-year follow-up period. To challenge different parts of your body, vary your moves to get up and down.
Inconvenient storage. It sounds counterintuitive, but storing frequently used diagnostic and intervention tools (games and cards, for example) in inconvenient locations provides movement opportunities. Store materials that you use every day on the lowest shelf and do a squat when you retrieve them.
Medical settings
Take the stairs or an indirect path between patients. Tailor movement goals to your fitness level (always take the stairs, for example, or take the stairs two at a time before lunch).
Align yourself when working with inpatients. When possible, adjust the height of a patient’s bed so that you can comfortably look them in the eye while standing or sitting.
Wear scrubs. If you have the opportunity to wear scrubs at work, take it. Scrubs are loose and allow movement. Also, not having to decide what to wear in the morning gives you more time to stretch before the work day begins.
Sources
Bluedorn, A. C., Turban, D. B., & Love, M. S. (1999). The effects of stand-up and sit-down meeting formats on meeting outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(2), 277–285. [Article]
Bluedorn, A. C., Turban, D. B., & Love, M. S. (1999). The effects of stand-up and sit-down meeting formats on meeting outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(2), 277–285. [Article] ×
Bowman, Katy . (2015). Don’t just sit there: Transitioning to a standing and dynamic workstation for whole-body health. Sequim, WA: Propriometrics Press.
Bowman, Katy . (2015). Don’t just sit there: Transitioning to a standing and dynamic workstation for whole-body health. Sequim, WA: Propriometrics Press.×
Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., Healy, G. N., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M. T., … Owen, N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976–983. [Article] [PubMed]
Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., Healy, G. N., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M. T., … Owen, N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976–983. [Article] [PubMed]×
Matthews, C. E., George, S. M., Moore, S. C., Bowles, H. R., Blair, A., Park, Y., … Schatzkin, A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(2), 437–445. doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.019620 [Article] [PubMed]
Matthews, C. E., George, S. M., Moore, S. C., Bowles, H. R., Blair, A., Park, Y., … Schatzkin, A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(2), 437–445. doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.019620 [Article] [PubMed]×
1 Comment
February 2, 2018
Leah Kutzli
Stand Up!
I'm a firm believer that moving around increases alertness, clarity of thought, and critical thinking. I see it in myself, at work in the students on my caseload, and at home with my own three kids. Most of my best solutions and ideas come to me when I'm standing and moving about rather than sitting in a chair. I'd noticed over the years that my own kids prefer to do their after-school homework while standing next to our table vs sitting down and that my oldest son thinks more clearly and retains information more efficiently when he has study sessions in which he's walking around our main floor. I decided late this past summer to test this theory during therapy sessions during the 2017-2018 school year. I invested in nesting sets of "bed risers" from my local hardware store and put them under the feet of my round therapy table. Adjusting the height of the table by 8 inches made it just the right height for stools or standing. Now, instead of inviting students to have a "seat" when they come in my office, I ask them whether they'd like to stand for therapy or would prefer to use a stool. On any given day, some kids choose stools (which allow then to swing their legs), while others prefer to stand and move their legs and feet around freely during sessions. I've not taken formal data, but have noticed that in addition to increased alertness, many of my lowest students have increased the quantity and quality of their oral contributions. Win, win! On afternoons where I'm trying to crank out reports, I often position my laptop on the raised table and complete on-line paperwork while standing.
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February 2018
Volume 23, Issue 2