Opinion

AT RANDOM: Get up, stand up

The above headline is not a cry for humans to start standing up for their rights, as everyone’s favourite Rastafarian Bob Marley decried more than 30 years ago.

I’m not against activism if that’s your thing – hey, I used to march myself – but, this call to get up, stand up is a plea to all of you who sit for a living.

As one whose posterior is stuck to a chair for a good part of the day, I constantly have to remind myself to sit up, take a break from that deathtrap known as a desk, peel my eyes away from the screen, stretch, and go for a walk if time allows.

It’s either move, or suffer.

I found out the hard way what can happen when you sit all day, adding on top of that a hunched posture that has plagued me since my mother first told me to sit up straight all those years ago.

It started after I had returned from an active three-week holiday in Australia. Back at my desk two days later, with a pile of emails and paper to sift through, I started feeling a tingling sensation and a slight numbness in my right hand, which I chalked up to said hand being glued to the mouse at my computer.

I knew something was wrong when a full cup of coffee literally slipped out of my fingers, leaving this huge stain on the newsroom’s fairly new carpet, prompting my coworkers to jeer me in their loving way. (I am known to be a bit of a klutz and have fried a few keyboards in my day with spilled coffee.)

A week later, I woke up to a searing pain centered around my elbow and travelling up to my neck. It was debilitating and as my husband was at work, I had to cry out to my poor kids to fetch me the phone.

“I can’t come into work...”

Fours days and three doctor visits later, with a drugstore’s worth of painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories as well as a good, stern lecture about my posture (I am developing a dorsal fin according to one physician), I finally went to see my physiotherapist for treatment. She suggested a neck X-ray.

Turns out I have a narrowing in the nerve channel from my C5 vertebrae, that big bump at the base of the neck. The nerve that travels down the right side of my arm down to my fingertips flared up, and it’s a problem that could come back to haunt me again and again.

Physio and massage has helped relieve the pain, and so has stretching and walking. Turns out that being stuck in one position all day is bad for your body and especially your neck... Go figure?!

You think we’d learn from our ancestors – those first humanoids who came after the dinosaurs died off around 1.9 million years ago. They came to be known as homo erectus,  which means “upright man,” and is derived  from the Latin “ērigere,” which means to put up, set upright.

In other words, with our biological makeup consisting of flexible bone, muscle and tissue, we were not meant to sit as much as we do.

We really should be running with the deer, or at least in time to catch the bus, this is 2014 after all. But realistically, we need to repair what I’m sure is an affliction for many who work in an office.

Fitness balls should replace every desk chair, and a 30-minute yoga or a stretching program should be de rigeur du jour at every business where employees park their behinds for long periods of the day. And we also need to be responsible for our own health and not rely on the medical community to hold our hand. A pill is not going to solve this sedentary problem.

Just get up, stand up. That’s my mantra now.

Kristin Froneman is the arts and entertainment editor at The Morning Star.

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