The virtual back page

With the end of the year rapidly approaching you will probably start to plan for the year ahead. But whilst most people set themselves lofty goals around achievements at work and reaching financial targets, we want to encourage you to give serious thought to the one item that is at the centre of it all: Your own body.

Of course, many people set themselves targets on losing weight, or to finally have that facelift done, but that’s not what we are talking about. Our thoughts revolve more about the less glamorous but infinitely more important issues like reducing the chance of developing a serious illness. More specifically, we want to highlight the fact that sitting too much and using smartphones excessively creates serious health risks.

Excessive sitting

During the past few years, lots of research has been done into the harmful effects of sitting for long periods of time. The resulting findings are scary. Fact is, the human body was never designed for sitting. For all its parts to function properly, it requires almost constant movement.

Health issues resulting from sitting too long include obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels and increased (bad) cholesterol readings. In some cases, even the much-hated “spare tyre around the waist” can be blamed on sitting for lengthy periods.

Researchers found that even though regular exercise is helpful, it may not be sufficient to counteract all the bad things sitting does to our bodies.








So, what are you supposed to do if your job seemingly ties you to a desk all day? The researchers recommend that you get up at intervals of approximately 30 minutes, stretch a little and, most importantly, walk around – the faster the better.

This fits in rather well with the need for retailers to walk the shop floor at regular intervals. So, pull yourself away from those spreadsheets or other desk-bound activities at regular intervals and take a brisk walk around the shop floor. Talk to members of your staff, talk to some of your regular customers and both your body and your business will thank you for it

Smartphone addiction

Sitting too long isn’t the only health risk our modern lifestyle has brought us. Over the past few years, smartphones have become another serious threat to our overall wellbeing. Although the have been around for a comparatively short period, we have become totally dependent on them. Did you know, for example, that the average user touches their smartphone 2,617 times a day. That’s proven, and it’s scary!

Even if one would ignore the social ills dependency on smartphones has caused, like people no longer having real and meaningful conversations or going for a walk together, the impact of excessive smartphone use on our health can no longer be ignored.

Medical practitioners like GPs, surgeons, physiotherapists and opticians report that they see an increasing number of patients who suffer from thumb and text claw, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back ailments, headaches and of course eye strain.

At a more insidious level, the World Health Organisation predicts that depression and anxiety will become the number one healthcare burden worldwide. We mention this because studies are revealing a clear correlation between anxiety, depression and smartphone use. Something to do with neurochemical balance in our brains, it seems.

So, what are the causes for the most obvious problems and what, if anything, can you do to mitigate them?

Let’s be clear about one thing. Given the importance we have allowed smartphones to assume in our daily lives, lobbying for their complete removal would be unrealistic. However, appeals for reducing the time spent staring at smartphone screens, texting and making calls should be taken seriously. Regular detox sessions, where digital devices are put away for several hours, should also form part of your new years’ resolutions.

Beyond that, consider the following:

Staring at your smartphone’s screen for hours on end will create eyestrain. Adjusting your screen’s contrast settings until you find the one that is most comfortable for your eyes is certain to bring some relief. However, environmental conditions must be taken into account. For example, contrast settings need to be adjusted if you come from the bright outdoors and enter a relatively dark room.

Training yourself to blink regularly also helps because it prevents the eyes from drying out.

There is also evidence that smartphones drain our brains. Discipline yourself to switch yours off at regular intervals and restore mind-body balance by taking a walk outside, or doing some manual labour like gardening. Even handwriting is better than typing away on a keyboard for hours on end.

Credible medical evidence exists that it is helpful to switch off your smartphone several hours before you go to bed. Apparently, the waves interfere with your body’s circadian rhythms, causing sleep deprivation and impacting mental health.

Above all, re-learn to enjoy face-to-face interaction with loved ones and friends. Give it a try for a few weeks and you’ll find that, health benefits aside, it truly enriches your life.