We live in an age of office rats and articles about how computers cripple people. Our muscles are constantly strained and back pain has become an everyday topic. It seems we’re burdened with diseases of well-being.
Long periods of seated immobility have become the norm and have resulted in a multitude of serious health problems, even death. A 24-year-old Korean is even reported to be dying of “eThrombosis” after playing an Internet computer game continuously for about 80 hours.
Interestingly, during the London Blitz the introduction of bunk beds in air raid shelters reduced the incidence of thrombosis in elderly females who had previously had to sit for long hours. However, it will take a considerable amount of time for this anecdotal material to be proved at a scientific level overwhelming enough to compel changes in human behaviour.
40 years in rehabilitation medicine and the work he accomplished for his recently defended doctorate have convinced Dr. Ragnar Viir that many health problems associated with our seated lifestyle can be avoided much more easily than we would usually think.
Using the novel Myoton diagnostic device developed by his colleague Dr. Arved Vain, Viir measured how unintentional muscle tension varies between sitting, standing and lying positions, and what happens to tension in water immersion. He found that compared to sitting or standing positions, lying down reduced trapezius muscle tension, for example, up to 20 percent. In water the tension diminished even more.
Viir explains: “When I do shoulder circles while sitting down in order to get rid of excess tension, my muscles have two goals – they have to maintain position and perform the movement. But when I lie down, I immediately lose 20 percent of the muscle tension because there’s no need to maintain the position any more.“
Hence Viir’s easy-to-follow tip for those with a seated lifestyle:
For every hour seated, lie down for two minutes and simulate walking with your legs, making gentle, rhythmic movements, alternated with relaxed, simple rotations of the shoulders and arms.
Viir’s findings have enormous practical value, as they can be used for physical rehabilitation treatment, but also to reduce muscle tension in everyday situations.
Dr. Viir reveals how he became a scientist: “I never thought that I would become a scientist. But in 1990 my rheumatology professor said that he didn’t notice any physiological effect when performing light exercises while lying down, and I just had to prove that statement wrong. Practice had already taught me what happened to muscles when a person was sitting, standing or lying down. Now all I needed was scientific proof.”
However, lying down and relaxing from sitting is not an alternative to physical activity. Ragnar Viir’s greater mission is to teach people that every step taken prolongs the walk of life.