As people return to the office in the wake of a global health situation, the workplace is being defined by how companies support employee health and well-being. Fortunately, there are ways organizations can help people move more and feel their best in order to deliver the best outcomes for wellness and performance.
Certified Ergonomics Professional Dr. Mark Vettraino joined Haworth Connect to discuss the importance of movement and its relationship to the internal age of the body, cognition, brainpower, efficiency, and posture.
Wellness is a dynamic, never-ending process. It’s an ongoing journey a person is on—moving toward optimal health. There is always room for improvement.
“Much like playing golf, you always try to improve your well-being but you're never going to be optimum. You can be good, and you can be better. That's what wellness is all about. It's a systematic approach to physical, mental, and social well-being,”
Dr. Mark Vettraino
Certified Ergonomics Professional
Engine of Health
The major deterrent to wellness is immobility. Research has shown that immobility increases discomfort, while decreasing flexibility, breathing, digestion, blood oxygen, cognition, and neuroplasticity of the brain. Movement allows each breath to be an engine of health.
Poor posture can also deter well-being. According to Mark, the stiffness of the aorta is directly related to the internal age of the body. Aortic stiffness predicts death from all causes, including heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The large artery carries the most blood and oxygen of any in the body and runs down the front of the spine. As a result, spinal flexibility is indirectly associated with the body’s internal age.
“The important thing to know is aortic stiffness consistently improves with fitness at any age. It doesn't matter how old you are; the more you try to move that spine and get movement into the aorta, the better health you're going to realize,” Mark says.
Movement and posture are directly related to the brain, especially the frontal lobe, which makes us human. It’s where our cognitive skills lie. It controls our emotions, expressions, problem-solving, memory, language, judgment, and more. It's a very active part of the brain, and neuroplasticity—or brain function—increases with movement. On the other hand, neuroplasticity is dampened by poor spinal posture.
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“The key to spinal mobility is spinal hygiene,” says Mark. “We all floss every day. But how often do we actually take our spine through a complete range of motion, flexion-extension, rotation, and lateral bending? Each one of the vertebrae has to move independently of the other in order to maintain proper spinal hygiene and, most importantly, to maintain proper curves in the spine,” Mark says.
A healthy spine has three curves. Constant use of laptops and smart devices is resulting in poor posture, which is leading to major health problems.
So what can you do?
Mark recommends practicing spinal hygiene to keep that spine mobile. It’s important to maintain the normal three curves of the spine while you're working, whether you're standing or sitting. Many people now have standing workstations or they move back and forth between standing and sitting, which is a good practice. “When you stand, make sure you try to keep your spine upright,” he says.
Mark views the two best exercises for spinal hygiene as swimming and yoga, particularly the 26 poses of Bikram yoga.
“Yoga is awesome for the spine. But you have to be careful, though. You don't want to injure yourself. Hot yoga is probably better for most because it helps warm up and makes the soft tissue a little bit more mobile and easier to stretch,” Mark says. “It's incredible—It will make a world of difference for you.”
More on Employee Health and Well-Being
To learn more about how movement and posture improve well-being and workplace outcomes, watch the video recording of Dr. Mark Vettraino’s full Haworth Connect presentation.