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There’s a great deal your workers can do right at their desks to improve jobsite ergonomics and their health, says Viveca Jonsson, president and CEO of VICECORP in Newcastle, WA. Jonsson, whose comprehensive ergonomics program is called "Bodies and Minds at Work," created a specific program especially geared toward sedentary employees called "Deskercise."
Deskercise involves a series of activities and exercises that target the back, hands and wrists, and the eyes. "As you sit and type, you need to keep your upper body still, causing continual tension in the shoulders. If you do that all day long your muscles will choke themselves for lack of oxygen," explains Jonsson, who has run corporate fitness programs for Starbucks Coffee and Bank of America. "You will get lactic acid buildup, resulting in a sore neck."
Every two hours at a minimum, says Jonsson, our bodies need to move in order for us to have healthy muscles, joints and circulation. Getting up and moving can improve circulation, while stretching exercises can even help prevent serious conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Jonsson targeted these three particular areas of the body because they are most vulnerable — and can be the most costly to employers. "More and more we are using small muscles to do smaller and smaller stuff we should use big muscles for," she explains. "And everything is repetitious because we interface with machines — and machines are stronger than we are, because they are designed to do things our bodies are not."
Many of Jonsson’s solutions are quite simple. For example, she notes, we can make our eyes feel much better simply by making them moist through periodic blinking, and focusing at various depths. "Our eyes are really like cameras, with short and long lenses, and the movement itself feels good," she explains.
There are several different exercises for the back and hand/wrist areas. One involves closing the eyes and lifting your hands up above your head from the side, taking a deep breath and exhaling. "You get stress reduction and more oxygen in the system," says Jonsson. "Any time your hands go over your head, the heart has to beat uphill — and faster. If you do this exercise, your stomach muscles will start working harder, your back extends, so you correct your posture, and your shoulders get some movement as well."
You should perform this exercise at least every hour, says Jonsson. "I do it anytime I feel like," she says. "I can even do it if I’m on the phone, using my other hand."
The key, says Jonsson, is to recognize that a little bit of prevention can go a long way. "For some employees, it can just mean going to the water cooler, or walking to the lobby and back. It doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of activity," she concludes.
[For more information, contact: Viveca Jonsson, VICECORP Inc., 14208 S.E. 77th St., Newcastle, WA 98059. Telephone: (425) 430-2454. Fax: (425) 430-2627. E-mail: Viveca@sprynet.com.]