Fit at your desk

Treadmill desks for translators: the scientific background and my personal experiences

For about the past four years, I have been using an adjustable-height desk and walking on a treadmill for much of my working day. In this talk, I will share my experiences and discuss the benefits of a treadmill desk, the history of the trend, practical issues, reasonable and unreasonable expectations, online information sources, and the brands and models available in the Netherlands. I now use a treadmill designed for placement under a desk, but I started out by modifying an inexpensive, general-purpose home treadmill so that I could use it under my desk; I’ll discuss the relative pros and cons of these two options. Information on benefits will be drawn from books by James Levine, MD (Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University) and other researchers: they include not only better health but also increased energy and concentration and a better, more stable mood throughout the day. The possible impact of walking on mental health will also be discussed. Material from a New Yorker article on treadmill desking by Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief) and the humorous essay “Arse-bestos” by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson will be presented. I will touch on the issue of compatibility with speech recognition and other ergonomic aids and briefly compare treadmill desks with under-desk exercise bicycles, and possibly with other alternatives.

Stop sitting on the problem!

The main purpose of my presentation is to provide some insight into the knowledge and skills required for good posture and movement during the working day through raising awareness of habitual posture, movement and behaviour. I will start the session with a PowerPoint presentation during which I will tell the audience something about posture, ergonomics and movement while working at the computer.  The concept of good posture will be supported by anatomical images and I will spend a few minutes giving a short explanation of the relevant anatomy of pelvis and vertebrae and muscles. I will talk about the physical risks associated with computer work, i.e. complaints of arm, neck or shoulder (CANS) and lower back pain, and provide some insight into associated psychosocial factors. This will be followed by suggestions about ways to prevent and relieve this type of disorder. I will briefly discuss the concept of ‘change management’ which involves adapting to new posture and movement strategies, and illustrate this using the ‘State of Change Model' in which the phases of adjusting to a new habit are clarified. The presentation will be concluded by a practical session during which we will practice a few simple exercises together. 

In conclusion, the take home message for the audience is that in order to achieve long-term changes in behaviour it is necessary to practice active sitting and do exercises during the working day. In other words – stop sitting on the problem!

Yoga at your desk

“Sitting is the new smoking”. Most of us have heard this by now, but many of us are still condemned to working at a desk, sitting in a chair. This short workshop will allow participants to do some simple yoga exercises to counteract the destructive effects of sitting, from their seats, or more accurately getting out of their seats in a “pretend” office environment. It will not require special clothing or equipment, but on the contrary is geared to an office setting where people may be wearing non-optimal clothing and have limited space and nosy colleagues. In addition, we will use objects like the chair and desk as aids. 

Why yoga? 

1. It involves the breath, which helps reduce/avoid stress. 

2. It aids circulation to cut-off areas

3. It strengthens muscles weakened by sitting and other bad habits, and stretches tight ones.

Participants will be taken through a number of poses that help shoulders, neck, back, hips, “core” (abdomen and sides) and legs.

About the facilitators

David McKay is the sole proprietor of Open Book Translation, a Dutch-English translation company specializing in literary works, books and articles on the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and texts for museums and the cultural sector. He is now working with the literary translator Ina Rilke on a new translation of Max Havelaar for the NYRB Classics series. His translation of the Flemish novel War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans will soon be published by Harvill Secker/Random House.

Leonie Porton, was born in Uithoorn, the Netherlands in 1991. In 2014 she gained a BSc from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA). She is now working  at the Medical Training Centre in Mijdrecht and at Oefentherapie Boskoop as an exercise therapist, ergonomic consultant, personal trainer, group instructor and fitness expert. Her areas of expertise include the treatment and prevention of work-related complaints and behavioral change. The therapeutic goals that she promotes include empowerment of the patient to claim ownership of their complaint and to provide insight into bad habits with the aim of preventing illness. In her spare time you will find Leonie in the gym. Although specialised in sport she is always on the look out for innovation and new challenges in her field of work. Since 2014 she has been the face of the FLITZZ project, a virtual and online exercise program for patients to prevent complications during hospitalization.  

American-born Anne Hodgkinson has been a translator/editor since about 1998. She discovered the physical and mental benefits of yoga about fifteen years ago, and got a yoga teaching certificate in 2012. Somewhat high-strung by nature, she finds the physicality and social interaction of yoga teaching the perfect antidote to working alone at a desk.