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Archive for November 2nd, 2009

By Sue Shekut, L.M.T., ASCM Personal Trainer and Certified Wellness Coach

Sitting with your feet flat on the floor with our backs resting on the back of your chair is an optimal ergonomic position (versus sitting on the edge of your chair as many shorter people end up doing so their feet can rest on the floor). However, many desks and computer surfaces are too high for people shorter than 5 feet 4 inches. At 5′-2″, I have always struggled to find the best combination of chair height and footrest to allow me to sit all the way back in my chair at my computer.

Recently we tested out two of the footrests shown below. Our clients report that both the 8 inch high Safeco footrest and the Rubbermaid Footrest have really helped them feel less neck and back strain when they work. Two of our vertically challenged clients (one approximately 5′-3″ in height and the other 5 foot) are using the footrests to allow them to raise their chairs high enough so that they are in proper position over their keyboards AND can still rest their feet on the floor or footrest.

Note: My feet are flat on a Safeco 8″ footrest myself as I type this post!

Safeco Footrest, Adjustable Easy-Glide Design, 18-1/2″W x 11-1/2″D x 8″H, Black SAF2106


Footrest, Adjustable Easy-Glide Design, 18-1/2"W x 11-1/2"D x 8"H, Black SAF2106

Price $30.84

  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 15.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds

Order from Amazon here.

This is a great footrest for people under 5′-2″. If you must raise your chair up to it’s upper most height just to get your hands comfortable on your keyboard, this is a footrest for you. It can sit flat so you can rest your feet flat as you sit. It can also easily angle if you need to rock your feet towards you or if you need a bit less height.

Amazon Customer Reviews

• I had a very old rubbermaid footrest that finally cracked. Tried some out and wasn’t pleased. Decided to try this one, mostly because it was a bit higher than most others and i am short. I was skeptical because it ‘looked’ like it tilted ‘at will’ and wasn’t able to be set at one position. Well, that part is true but i just LOVE it and it is extremely comfortable whether tilted towards me or if i am resting such that it is tilted away from me! This one’s a keeper!

• After reading the reviews posted, I decided to get this foot rest to help relieve my lower back pain. It has helped relieve my lower back pain considerably. I am only 5 feet tall and can never reach the floor. Having this has helped my posture and sitting position immensely. I cannot begin to tell you how this has helped my lower back. Thank you fellow reviewers for turning me onto such a wonderful product!

• I bought this for use at home with my computer… as a woman with short legs, even at the lowest setting my computer chair forces me to sit forward in order for my feet to be comfortably on the floor. This footrest is fully adjustable, tips comfortably and instantly relieved the pressure sitting at the computer, enabling me to work for longer periods of time with less back, neck and shoulder strain! Highly recommend you have one at home… I always had one at work but getting one for home was a great move!

• This footrest is fairly simple but it gets the job done. Because the design is so simple, the likelihood of anything breaking on this is slim to none. I bought one for home and work and they both help me keep my legs up so that my legs aren’t getting pinched by the edge of the chair. I also like how you can adjust it by just moving your feet around which is nice for a fidgety person like myself.

Note: This footrest is very high compared to other footrests. At its full height it is 8 inches from the floor. So for people taller than 5’4″ you may be better off with a shorter footrest, as shown below. Amazon reviewers that were average height or only needed a footrest a few inches off the floor did not like this footrest due to it’s height.

Safeco Ergo-Comfort Adjustable Footrest – Black


Ergo-Comfort Adjustable Footrest - Black

Price:  $26.31

  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 20 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds

Product Features

  • Elevates feet, improves circulation and allows shoulders to relax backwards naturally.
  • Easy-Glide design improves circulation allows repositioning of legs and feet while footrest is in use.
  • Tilt angle slides easy to any position that is comfortable for individual users.
  • Available in two heights.

This is a shorter version of the Safeco 8″ footrest. it’s also simple in design but gives you just a few inches of height for those that are taller than 5′-2″ or 5′-4″

Amazon Customer Reviews:

• There are fancier and more expensive foot rests out there, but they offer little more than an increased price and decreased reliability. This unit sturdy consisting of a metal frame and a solid (plastic or wood, I cannot tell) platform. It has only one moving part: the platform tilts in place on the metal frame.

• I am 6′ tall and find this foot rest to be quite comfortable. It’s at just the right height to keep my posture straight when sitting at my desk in my office chair. The tilting feature is effective in allowing me to find a comfortable position, and allows me to change the easily position when I want as is recommended for maximum benefit. Changing position is done by simply moving the platform with the feet — it is held in position by friction which seems sufficient to prevent unwanted slippage, yet yields when required.

• I looked at a lot of foot rests before choosing this one. The size is good, lots of foot room. I like that it can set over the cords rather than having to push them out of the way. It’s bulky or heavy and though it does not lock in place, it doesn’t move unless I want it to, I prefer it that way as I can’t sit in one position for long.

• I looked at all the reviews on footrests first. This one had none; I went for it. All the others seemed to have some problem. It is not fancy, only two pieces. Little or nothing to break. It looks and feels sturdy. It does what is supposed to do: adjust to your feet-and-back-needs with a slight pressure with your soles. It stays in place until you change it. No wobbling. Rubber on the bottom has enough traction to keep footrest from slipping on hardwood floor. Feet don’t slip from rest surface, either. I started using it this morning. Very comfortable. My back feels better already. I recommend it.

Note: Not every Amazon shopper was pleased with this Safeco footrest. But the unhappy reviewers main complaint was that the footrest broke when they applied too much pressure to it. Remember, this is a footrest, not a foot stool!

Rubbermaid 4653 Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest, Charcoal, 18-1/8w x 14-1/4d


Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest - Charcoal

Price $46.99 at Amazon.

Order Rubbermaid footrest here.

Product Details

* Item Weight: 6.5 pounds
* Shipping Weight: 6.5 pounds

Our 5′-3″ Working Well Massage client really likes this footrest. She’s only had it about a month so she can’t attest to it’d durability. However, it has made her much more comfortable sitting at her compute r and visiting coworkers like to putt heir feet  on it under her desk when they come in for meetings as well.

Amazon Customer Reviews:
• I’ve had this for about 4 years and it works great. It is the only footrest you’ll find that goes to a full 6.25″ in height, so if you are 5’3″ or shorter, a standard footrest probably is not going to be high enough for you. If you are taller than about 5’7″, you could probably get a standard foot rest. This one is very solid, and while the height is not easy to adjust, I have needed to adjust it exactly one time–when I took it out of the box–unless your height fluctuates from day to day you’ll never have to change it.

• I bought this to use at work and liked it a lot. However, one month later, it broke. A piece of plastic snapped off and now I no longer have three positions. Just one, flat on the floor. If you buy one, treat it gingerly and push it aside so no one else will use it when you’re away.

• My husband and I both bought one Eldon Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest for our offices. We were delighted at first, because it did seem to relieve back pain and adjust our sitting positions. However, a few months later, two piece of plastic which change positions snapped off on his footrest. I thought he was not gentle enough. Not long after that, mine broke too, just when I needed it most (pregnant women have achy back!) I swear I was very gentle, and with my husband’s experience, I was trying to be extra careful with it. Oh well. I will need to get another one. This time, I will buy one with metal support.

• I am so happy with this product for several reasons – 1) Its the only footrest that I found that has 3 adjustable heights with the highest being almost 7″. This is great for me being only 5’2″! 2) It adjusts very easily…to raise it, just pull up to each height and to lower, hold the front and tilt it back. 3) It tilts back and forth, for added comfortability and increased circulation. The one thing I don’t like is the raised hard dimples. I know these are supposed to increase circulation in your feet, but I found them rather uncomfortable.

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By Harvard Health Publications

Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. One such practice, yoga, has received less attention in the medical literature, though it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. One national survey estimated, for example, that about 7.5% of U.S. adults had tried yoga at least once, and that nearly 4% practiced yoga in the previous year.

Yoga classes can vary from gentle and accommodating to strenuous and challenging; the choice of style tends to be based on physical ability and personal preference. Hatha yoga, the most common type of yoga practiced in the United States, combines three elements: physical poses, called asanas; controlled breathing practiced in conjunction with asanas; and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation.

Many of the studies evaluating yoga’s therapeutic benefits have been small and poorly designed. However, a 2004 analysis found that, in recent decades, an increasing number have been randomized controlled trials — the most rigorous standard for proving efficacy.

Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends.

Taming the stress response

By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

A small but intriguing study further characterizes the effect of yoga on the stress response. In 2008, researchers at the University of Utah presented preliminary results from a study of varied participants’ responses to pain. They note that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are also more sensitive to pain. Their subjects were 12 experienced yoga practitioners, 14 people with fibromyalgia (a condition many researchers consider a stress-related illness that is characterized by hypersensitivity to pain), and 16 healthy volunteers.

When the three groups were subjected to more or less painful thumbnail pressure, the participants with fibromyalgia — as expected — perceived pain at lower pressure levels compared with the other subjects. Functional MRIs showed they also had the greatest activity in areas of the brain associated with the pain response. In contrast, the yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI. The study underscores the value of techniques, such as yoga, that can help a person regulate their stress and, therefore, pain responses.

Improved mood and functioning

Questions remain about exactly how yoga works to improve mood, but preliminary evidence suggests its benefit is similar to that of exercise and relaxation techniques.

In a German study published in 2005, 24 women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. Women in a control group maintained their normal activities and were asked not to begin an exercise or stress-reduction program during the study period.

Though not formally diagnosed with depression, all participants had experienced emotional distress for at least half of the previous 90 days. They were also one standard deviation above the population norm in scores for perceived stress (measured by the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale), anxiety (measured using the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and depression (scored with the Profile of Mood States and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, or CES-D).

At the end of three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.

One uncontrolled, descriptive 2005 study examined the effects of a single yoga class for inpatients at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital. The 113 participants included patients with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. After the class, average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue dropped significantly, as measured by the Profile of Mood States, a standard 65-item questionnaire that participants answered on their own before and after the class. Patients who chose to participate in additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effects.

Further controlled trials of yoga practice have demonstrated improvements in mood and quality of life for the elderly, people caring for patients with dementia, breast cancer survivors, and patients with epilepsy.

Benefits of controlled breathing

A type of controlled breathing with roots in traditional yoga shows promise in providing relief for depression. The program, called Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating, and is taught by the nonprofit Art of Living Foundation.

One study compared 30 minutes of SKY breathing, done six days a week, to bilateral electroconvulsive therapy and the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine in 45 people hospitalized for depression. After four weeks of treatment, 93% of those receiving electroconvulsive therapy, 73% of those taking imipramine, and 67% of those using the breathing technique had achieved remission.

Another study examined the effects of SKY on depressive symptoms in 60 alcohol-dependent men. After a week of a standard detoxification program at a mental health center in Bangalore, India, participants were randomly assigned to two weeks of SKY or a standard alcoholism treatment control. After the full three weeks, scores on a standard depression inventory dropped 75% in the SKY group, as compared with 60% in the standard treatment group. Levels of two stress hormones, cortisol and corticotropin, also dropped in the SKY group, but not in the control group. The authors suggest that SKY might be a beneficial treatment for depression in the early stages of recovery from alcoholism.

Potential help for PTSD

Since evidence suggests that yoga can tone down maladaptive nervous system arousal, researchers are exploring whether or not yoga can be a helpful practice for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One randomized controlled study examined the effects of yoga and a breathing program in disabled Australian Vietnam veterans diagnosed with severe PTSD. The veterans were heavy daily drinkers, and all were taking at least one antidepressant. The five-day course included breathing techniques (see above), yoga asanas, education about stress reduction, and guided meditation. Participants were evaluated at the beginning of the study using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which ranks symptom severity on an 80-point scale.

Six weeks after the study began, the yoga and breathing group had dropped their CAPS scores from averages of 57 (moderate to severe symptoms) to 42 (mild to moderate). These improvements persisted at a six-month follow-up. The control group, consisting of veterans on a waiting list, showed no improvement.

About 20% of war veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD, according to one estimate. Experts treating this population suggest that yoga can be a useful addition to the treatment program.

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., are offering a yogic method of deep relaxation to veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Kristie Gore, a psychologist at Walter Reed, says the military hopes that yoga-based treatments will be more acceptable to the soldiers and less stigmatizing than traditional psychotherapy. The center now uses yoga and yogic relaxation in post-deployment PTSD awareness courses, and plans to conduct a controlled trial of their effectiveness in the future.

Cautions and encouragement

Although many forms of yoga practice are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. In particular, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option.

But for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.

Where To Find Yoga Classes

Yoga Chicago magazine is a free publication distributed around the Chicagoland area. It contains a directory of all yhe known yoga classes in the city and suburbs of Chicago. Other cities may have similar publications or online services. For the Yoga Chicago main class directory go to this link here.

There are also a number of great yoga DVD’s available from Amazon, or you may find them at Target, Best Buy or Whole Foods Markets:

Yoga for Beginners from Amazon here.

Yoga for Stress Relief from Amazon here.

Yoga for Every Body from Amazon here.

and Yoga for Inflexible People from Amazon here.

Working Well Massage also provides certified yoga instructors for your home or office.

Sources:

Brown RP, et al. “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Feb. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 189–201.

Brown RP, et al. “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part II — Clinical Applications and Guidelines,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Aug. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 711–17.

Janakiramaiah N, et al. “Antidepressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia: A Randomized Comparison with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Imipramine,” Journal of Affective Disorders (Jan.–March 2000): Vol. 57, No. 1–3, pp. 255–59.

Khalsa SB. “Yoga as a Therapeutic Intervention: A Bibliometric Analysis of Published Research Studies,” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (July 2004): Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 269–85.

Kirkwood G, et al. “Yoga for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of the Research,” British Journal of Sports Medicine (Dec. 2005): Vol. 39, No. 12, pp. 884–91.

Pilkington K, et al. “Yoga for Depression: The Research Evidence,” Journal of Affective Disorders (Dec. 2005): Vol. 89, No. 1–3, pp. 13–24.

Saper RB, et al. “Prevalence and Patterns of Adult Yoga Use in the United States: Results of a National Survey,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (March–April 2004): Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 44–49.

For more references, please see www.health.harvard.edu/mentalextra.

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