Life balance

by • March 21, 2014 • Safety MattersComments (0)1126

Sitting still undermines our health goals


For those of us who thought recess was the best subject in school? Looks like we were right all along.

To avoid injury, you can’t just ‘be careful.’ You also have to be strong, flexible and active. Sitting at a desk for 40 hours or more a week and then going outdoors to get after it on the weekend is a sure recipe for injury.

Louis Stack learned that lesson as an athlete when he suffered a serious ski-related injury. Fortunately for Stack, he found a successful road back to health, and since 1985, he’s been sharing his secrets of how he did it.

“I’m not one to give up easily,” Stack said. “I enjoyed a successful career as a Canadian National speed skier so I understand what is required for training in the competitive sports environment at a World Cup level. I was determined to find a way to regain my own health and fitness and at the same time help others.”

Louis Stack with Fitter First demonstrates his ski slide to help athletes get and keep fit. COURTESY DEBRA MCGHAN

Louis Stack with Fitter First demonstrates his ski slide to help athletes get and keep fit. COURTESY DEBRA MCGHAN

Stack believes the foundation for good health and fitness comes down to three things: “stability, agility and mobility.

“If you can improve your stability by using balance toys and tools, you can achieve the goal of having better agility in sports and daily living and enjoy better mobility for life,” he said.

In his quest he began engineering and producing rehabilitation products designed to improve strength and balance. In 1985 Stack founded Fitter International, Inc., in his basement.

When others saw what Stack was accomplishing with his equipment, they wanted to try his methods.

“People started asking me, ‘When do you stop using these rehab products?’ I would tell them, ‘As soon as you want to start getting ready for your next injury,’ which of course, people don’t want to do.”

During the past 29 years, Fitter First has produced a range of products to help people recover from injury, prepare for competition and stay healthy. The Calgary-based company provided all of the functional fitness products for athlete villages at the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. They also work with families of young athletes to help strengthen them to prepare for competition.

And most recently, they have embraced and promote the Active Office.

“We know that sitting at a desk for 40 or more hours a week is killing us,” Stack said. “People have got to get up and get active if they want to stay healthy.”

I could sure relate to this problem. For the past 10 years I have averaged about 60 hours a week sitting in an office. About four years ago I was injured while skiing. I didn’t realize until later the damage I had actually done. Sitting at a desk for long stretches exacerbated the problem until I could no longer walk or sleep without constant pain. I’ve since realized that my situation is not uncommon.

According to Dr. James Bogashthe of Phoenix, the body quickly compensates for injuries, and that compensation reduces our ability to heal and function normally.

Studies published in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” and in “Diabetologia,” a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, confirm it. Scientists determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. They added that extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDLcholesterol in the blood, resulting in risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

“The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” said Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.

To combat these findings, Fitter First now produces ‘active office’ products to help employers increase productivity among employees and reduce injuries sustained from active weekends. Varidesk, for example, is a small, compact unit that can be placed on any work surface and then raised and lowered easily with the flip of a lever. It can comfortably accommodate a laptop, monitor, mouse and/or keyboard.

The Varidesk active desk will keep you moving while you go about business. COURTESY DEBRA MCGHAN

The Varidesk active desk will keep you moving while you go about business. COURTESY DEBRA MCGHAN

This simple device can easily turn your work environment into a standing, active workstation that allows users to continually move while improving stability, agility and balance.

Fitter First also offers such tools as balance balls, exercise boards, active sitting, massage and therapy tools.

Not only are these items fun to play with, they also help keep employees active and fit, and, ultimately, more productive and content, confirming a U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that active employees are healthier and miss 15 percent fewer days at work.

So, even if you boast a five-times-a-week gym regimen, have lived a lifetime of hard cardio exercise, and have a resting heart rate below the norm, that does not inoculate you from the perils of sitting. If you want to reduce pain and be at the top of your game, you have to be active.

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