Sitting smarter with Dr. Scott Donkin

Over the course of several months, I have been talking to Dr. Scott Donkin, an internationally published author, chiropractor, lecturer and consultant about challenges people face to their health caused directly by poor sitting habits. Dr. Donkin has been in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska for over thirty years.

I was introduced to Scott by Dr. Joe Sweere, who teaches ergonomics at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Joe is brother to Ergotron’s founder, the late Harry Sweere. Not only was Joe instrumental in establishing ergonomics as a key factor in the design of Ergotron products but he and Scott were once in practice together. Together they have a long history of involvement with ergonomics and Ergotron.

Scott has much to teach us about good posture and in particular, how to sit without fatigue or pain. He refers to postures such as sitting and standing as “activities of daily living” — basically habits or pieces of a puzzle that together form an overall quality of life. He includes topics such as stress, exercise and sleep because those activities influence posture and vice versa. In fact, from a clinical point of view, good or bad posture can make any activity better or worse. Learning how to leverage this fact is vital to enjoying all aspects of your life.

An important lesson Scott has learned in his practice is to meet people where they are, then invite them to another, healthier place. He works with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. In my case, Scott has been a wealth of information in my mission to educate Ergotron customers and employees about the importance of ergonomics (which, by the way, has been called “the science of everyday life”). Here are some excerpts from several conversations between Scott and me that I hope you will find interesting.

Here are some excerpts from several conversations that I hope you will find interesting.

Carrie: Scott, to begin with, can you say a little about your work and how it relates to ergonomics?

Scott: I began Chiropractic practice in 1980 and found that adjusting patients’ chairs and workplaces helped get better results. We found a link between better workstation use, improved posture, quality of work and fewer physical complaints.

Carrie: What did employers think about these results?

Scott: Employers of the people I helped were impressed with the positive results, and they wanted me to do the same for additional employees.

Carrie: It’s been my experience that people are eager for ergonomic guidance. The desire to improve is something universal among humans. We’re lucky to live in a time when rapid and widespread communication is available to so many. At Ergotron, we created a website where people can access the latest research on ergonomics and wellness at

Scott: What really attracts me to Ergotron is that you provide solutions to help people around the world.

Carrie: Sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to spreading the word about healthy computer use. I understand you’ve been working on this topic for a few decades now. You even wrote a book addressing office ergonomics. What was the impetus for that?

Scott: My first book Sitting On The Job, written in 1982 was inspired by patient and company results. Sitting can be a health positive activity, but one must learn how and why to make it that way or you get the wrong result. Sitting On The Job has been in print for almost three decades & still available because many issues remain.

Carrie: What were some common issues you encountered when fixing workplaces for better ergonomics?

Scott: Most common were back, neck and/or extremity pain, headaches, stress, fatigue, eyestrain, and diminished morale. Employees were not aware of how to sit in their seats or adjust their workplaces for better health & performance. I quickly found out that simply adjusting their workplaces did not have lasting effects.

Carrie: Were you ever able to find a way to make workplace adjustments last over the long term?

Scott: Yes. When I explained how and why, then coached people through making their own improvements longer term changes resulted.

Carrie: So, teaching them to fish, right? And you followed up with two more books, Peak Performance: Body and Mind and an ebook Sitting Smarts. I have to say, as a former technical illustrator, the many straight-forward illustrations you provide in your books really caught my attention. Even with my training, it’s often hard for me to imagine what’s going on with the human body by verbal descriptions alone. The graphics literally put flesh on the anatomical issues that people are having when they sit, stand and move.

Scott: I’m glad you noticed the illustrations! In writing these books it was my intention to present the information in ways that people could easily comprehend. Otherwise, they might not reap the full benefits of my recommendations. I really want people to have the information and pathways to change their lives for the better.

Carrie: But your work to educate people on ergonomics and posture isn’t limited to the press is it? I was impressed to learn that you had done a TEDx talk in your hometown, Lincoln Nebraska.   can you tell us about the subject of that presentation? TEDx talk in your hometown, Lincoln Nebraska. Can you tell us about the subject of that presentation?

Scott: Yes, the subject is ‘Sit Smarter Not Harder’.  Many of us are familiar with that cliché applied to ‘Work Smarter Not Harder’ but to sit is defined as a ‘rest’ activity by the body.  That is why the way we sit is causing so many health and productivity problems world-wide.  How to use the body’s design to make sitting health positive is what this TEDxLincoln Talk directly addresses. It is only about 12 minutes long and condenses an enormous amount of information as well as experience for practical use.

Carrie: Using our body as it was designed to move is a key principal in ergonomics. It’s all about improving efficiency, and limiting fatigue and injury that occur when you aren’t mindful. Scientists are always looking for evidence-based data to describe proper mechanics in a meaningful way – which reminds me of an EMG graph I’ve seen representing the electrical burst that happens when a person transitions from one posture to another. It originated with Dr. Marc Hamilton, who is a leader in physical inactivity research. Let’s talk a bit about that transition between postures.

EMG_DrHamilton Scott: I like to think of that transition you’re referring to, as the bond between sitting and standing. It’s more than a relationship, because they actually influence each other at a very basic level. In fact, if a person stands poorly they are bound to sit poorly. Carrie, do you know the posture rule?

Carrie: No, I don’t think I’m familiar with a rule for posture.

Scott: The posture rule is that posture rules. A litmus test for good ergonomic implementation is exhibiting good posture whether sitting or standing. A dysfunctional posture is a red flag that other bad things are going on as well. The good news is that if you can correct one, it should help correct the other. In other words, good sitting

sittingsmarts154x168Carrie: It’s clear that anyone who works at a computer can benefit from your understanding and experience assessing posture. Which reminds me, I want to mention that you’re going to give people a chance to get a free download of the first chapter of your e-book, SittingSmarts.

Scott: I’m very happy to give people a chance to obtain this first chapter of SittingSmarts online.

Carrie: I downloaded SittingSmarts to my printer so I have it on-hand whenever I need to reference a concept or illustration. It has served me very well over the last few months! ______________________________________________________________________________ carrieTPJoin me (@giveafig) and Scott (@ScottWDonkin) the first Thursday of each month, starting August 7 at 1 PM CT, for #standchat on Twitter. This is an opportunity to network and discuss the sit-stand movement with other influencers in the chiropractic, physical therapy and wellness world. Scott will also let you how to receive a free copy of the first chapter of his e-book #SittingSmarts.

Healthcare technology evolving but nurses remain burdened by legacy physical challenges, according to recent survey

60 percent of nurses worry their jobs are negatively impacting their overall health, and 12 percent of nurses were injured on the job in the past year.

NurseHealthThese are of a few of the statistics revealed today in Ergotron’s first survey, exploring challenges nurses face on the job.

“Nurses play a crucial role in the delivery of patient care, and their insights help us better understand the state of nursing today and what can be done to improve clinical patient care and confidence moving forward,” said Steve Reinecke, MT (CLS) CPHIMS, AVP of Healthcare at Ergotron.

While U.S. healthcare continues its radical digital transformation, with nurses often on the forefront especially regarding the use of electronic health records (EHRs), little else has changed on the physical side of day-to-day, real-time nursing care.

Nurse injuries have been well documented, but what is often not addressed is how their injuries and physical discomfort directly affects patient care. The findings show:

  • They are less friendly or engaging with their patients (22 percent)
  • They have to modify or limit their activity/movement on the job (22 percent)
  • They are distracted (17 percent)
  • They needed more assistance from other staff (14 percent)

Nurses report seeing the advantages of EHRs in the survey, and the majority of them feel comfortable using technology. However the biggest challenge is creating an environment that caters to the needs of the nurse. When asked what they would change:

  • 54 percent said they would increase nursing staff to alleviate workloads
  • 28 percent would instate a dedicated ergonomics team to help ensure equipment is ergonomically supportive to the staff
  • 28 percent would re-design the physical space within patient rooms and on floors to better align with clinical workflow and patient needs
  • 25 percent would update the furniture at the nursing station
  • 24 percent would update medical equipment and furniture in the patient room
  • 22 percent would implement more point-of-care solutions throughout the floor with sit-to-stand functionality.

These findings challenge healthcare organizations to implement solutions to protect the health of nursing resources while creating the kind of environment that brings the patient and caregiver together for increased interaction, satisfaction, safety and efficiency.

For the full survey report, visit

The responses were generated from a 2014 survey fielded by independent research firm GMI Research of 250 U.S. medical professionals, who self-identified as full-time credentialed nurses and work in a healthcare setting in the continental United States, with experience.

Q & A with Dr. James A. Levine

jameslevineIn advance of his book launch, Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You & What You Can Do About It,”  Dr. James A. Levine participated in this Q & A with his publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

The following will give you a glimpse at his passion and commitment to uncovering “why and how people move” and the impact it has on our bodies.

You have done some much research in this area and published so many papers. Why did you want to write this book?

Dr. Levine: I have spent 40 years, ever since I was child, on a mission to understand how—and why people move. I never expected to discover that that everyday sitting—what we all experience—is so harmful to the body and mind alike. I wrote this book to explain the science, scientists, joy of discovery, and the challenges of using science to reverse the ill-fates of seat-sentenced humanity.

Your book features many quizzes on how much we are sitting, how far our bodies have evolved, etc. Where do you rate on your quizzes, and were you happy with your own results?

Dr. Levine: A key component of Get Up! is to engage people’s minds in finding their path forwards, and a quiz engages the mind!  As the writer, I too became engaged. The quiz about car seat addiction was written the night I drove 100 miles in my car between meetings. I realized there was a better way – and yes, I changed how my meetings are scheduled.

If you HAD to pick a chair to sit in, what is the best, most healthy kind of chair? (if it exists!)

Dr. Levine: The best kind of chair is the one you use to take a break between activities!

Why is it so hard for people struggling with obesity to decrease their sitting time by just over 2 hours, as you recommend to your patients?

Dr. Levine: We have created a world where sitting is implicit in almost every everyday activity: work, leisure, dating and shopping. Once a sitter becomes accustomed to sitting, finding sustainable leg-based solutions is complex. For a person, the tactics might involve converting a desk based job to a leg based one; converting sofa-based partner time to active intimacy and switch for a car commuter to a leg-based calorie burning alternative.

How do you see advancing technologies helping and hurting our society’s sitting problem?

Dr. Levine: We foresee a world of dynamic and moving people free from the chairman’s curse.  The alternate is unimaginable—a world in which all children are prescribed a polypill in order to mitigate the harm of sitting disease.

What is the ideal speed for working on a treadmill desk, and why?

Dr. Levine: The most ideal speed  for working on a treadmill desk is 1.1 mph—it is the natural speed at which humans move throughout the day, so it will be the most comfortable without becoming too distracting.

What is your ideal office environment of the future?

Dr. Levine: Happy, dynamic, productive, creative and healthy—where chairs are only used to take a break!

The news is full of articles about why sitting is bad for us, but there is good science behind the claim that sitting is the new smoking. Carrie Schmitz, research manager at Ergotron, concurs. “Dr. Levine’s book does a great job explaining why all of us should be concerned about the sedentary lifestyle, but more important, he provides proven guidelines for avoiding obesity-related diseases like diabetes and cancer.”

You can hear Dr. Levine speak more about this topic during the upcoming ErgoExpo™ Wednesday Webinar, August 13, 2014, or take his Chair Quiz at Dr. Levine’s book is now available everywhere books are sold.