Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No more pain and stress

As a student I spend many hours each day sitting at my computer. Even though I am conscious of my posture and the way that I am sitting, I have still developed chronic back pain and circulation problems. Sitting for these extended periods of time causes me to stiffen and be uncomfortable, which in turn creates problems with concentration and causes distractions. Being in pain creates a stressful work environment that does not allow for optimal learning. I have heard about the benefits of exercise on the brain and have personally found that I concentrate best if I take frequent breaks to walk or stretch in order to get my blood flowing and my muscles moving. I have tried a variety of chairs and cushions over the years but they all resulted in the same problems.

Before I moved to Rochester to begin the second half of my student teaching, I completed my final shopping spree at Wegmans. As I strolled through the aisles I spotted the perfect solution to my problem; a core stability ball. I had used the ball before when I was at the gym and I knew a few people who used them regularly. I realized that by purchasing a core stability ball, I would have better posture while using my computer, increase blood flow to my legs, and be able to move and exercise while working. I purchased the ball and gave away my old desk chair. Over the next 9 weeks I used the ball every day. I was spending 5-8 hours a day at my computer and it would have been excruciating if I had not made that spontaneous purchase. Since making the switch, I have had no back pain, I lost weight and gained muscle tone, and I was able to reduce my stress level at the same time. I have also increased the blood circulation to my legs by moving and stretching while sitting at my computer.

As I type this, I am bouncing, swiveling, rocking, and balancing. I have fun while working at my computer and I took the pain and dread out of the equation. I would recommend a core stability ball to anyone who spends time sitting for long periods of time, or who wants to take the stress and pain out of studying. They can be purchased from a variety of companies and stores, both online and around the community. The $25 that I spent has been well worth the relaxed and fun experience of using the ball.

Here are a few other tips for decreasing stress on the body while working at a computer.

1. Purchase ergonomic keyboards, wrist guards and mouse pads.
2. Take short breaks every 20-30 minutes.
3. Stretch and move your arms and legs while working to keep blood flowing to the hands and feet.
4. Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks such as vegetables and fruits.
5. Listen to music that helps you relax, focus and that encourages movement.

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  1. I completely agree! I heard that the stability ball is extremely helpful to decrease back pain and increase core muscle strength. I have a stability ball, but unfortunately my room is not large enough for me to do my work at my desk and am limited to where I can do it. I wish I had a larger space to use it. I heard that a stability ball can also be useful for students with ADHD. I believe this is so the students can bounce on the ball without distracting the other students in the class and help the students focus on their work. Have you heard about this?

  2. I have heard of this and the site http://www.wittfitt.com/benefits.htm#5 gives information on the programs they are trying to implement to replace chairs in schools to help students to learn more effectively and to increase physical activity. I love using my ball and have noticed such a huge difference in how I feel when approaching my desk and while I am working. I am sorry that your work space does not allow you to use it while you work. Last semester while I was teaching I spent some time sitting in the chairs that the school provides and I felt horrible after about five minutes. It hurt my spine and did not allow me to stretch, move or relax. I think all students would benefit from having a core stability ball to sit on in class.

  3. I am really glad I read this actually. I'm also starting to have lower back problems like the rest of my family and am now trying to find ways to decrease the back pain or at least prevent it. I've heard of people trying this ball at their desk but I never knew that it was actually effective until I read your blog. My body does not do well sitting in still positions for long periods of time so this seems like a good alternative. Grad school forces us to sit still a lot in front of a computer considering we're always reading or writing papers so perhaps I'll consider getting one of these balls. Not only will it be good for my posture but I can do back exercises and stretches with it too. Thanks for the input Hanna! :-)

  4. This is actually the first time I've really heard about replacing desk chairs with stability balls, but I have heard that many people do build a lot of strength with this form of exercise equipment, so I suppose it makes a lot of sense. I too have lower back pain, but I think it is mainly due to stress, carrying heavy things, and shoveling! With that said, I think I will be checking out more information on these stability balls and possibly give them a try!

  5. Hey Hanna,
    I love the news show Sunday Morning, they show news that is actually interesting and relevant to everyday life, sadly its only on Sunday morning, hence its name, Sunday Morning. Recently on that show I watched an episode talking about how beneficial stability balls are in the classroom to help concentrate and induce learning. Apparently so much concentration goes into staying balanced on their ball that the rest of their energy goes into the task (lesson) and off task behavior is significant reduced! When I learned of this, it really struck a familiar note for me because I have always been a kinetic learner and always needed to be shifting or moving to learn. Since grade school I have compensated with my constant chewing of gum, but I really wish I grew up using a stability ball. I can totally empathize with the back pain and stiffness when sitting at a computer with the long assignments consistently due! I do not know if it is the sitting, positioning, stress, or most likely all three attributes to the back pain, but I know one thing, and that is it really hurts!
    Good post,