Sunday 24 June 2018

How's your back? The impact of spending much longer sitting in our gridlock-gripped cars is taking hold

In focus: gridlock

'Sitting for hours each day can take a toll on your body'
'Sitting for hours each day can take a toll on your body'
When buying a car, check to see how the seats support your

PJ Cunningham

You don't need me to tell you that most of us are sitting longer in our cars as gridlock tightens its grip on more of our roads.

Sure you have radio, connectivity and all sorts of gadgets to pass the time. But sitting for hours each day can take a heavy toll on your body - especially your back, legs and shoulders. Which means we are probably not paying enough attention to the sort of seats and supports we need in our cars.

Long-time driving complaints include neck pain, fatigue, leg discomfort, aching shoulders and headaches.

It is hardly surprising either that back pain was the most commonly reported chronic health condition documented by the Irish Health Survey in 2016.

When buying a car, check to see how the seats support your
When buying a car, check to see how the seats support your

Against this backdrop of stiffness, pain and stress from traffic congestion, motor manufacturers are increasingly focusing on how to improve seating conditions.

Research shows 80pc of us have chronic back/spinal disorder (30pc) and 50pc occasionally suffer back ailments.

So it was informative to sit(!) in on a recent special briefing by Opel. Their seating specialist Jonas Eisenbraun was in Dublin to highlight the need to better look after our backs.

"More people in Ireland and across Europe are spending increasing amounts of time in their cars. For many drivers their car seat is also their workplace," he explained at Opel's Art-of-Sitting breakfast briefing.

Opel have 100 seat experts working on new ways to improve comfort, style and safety at their Russelsheim headquarters.

They helped develop the award-winning 18-way adjustable ergonomic wellness seats with adaptable lumbar support, variable seat cushion tilt and extension settings.

As a result, Opel was one of the automotive brands to secure the Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V. (AGR) seal of approval.

Mr Eisenbraun told me: "We also have to anticipate the future with electric and driverless cars, absence of steering wheels and so on. Our experts must factor in added safety from side impact too.

"The rapid change in seating adjustments will benefit when drivers can call the various adjustments up on their display units and calibrate accordingly."

Anchoring the event on 'The Importance of Good Back Health', Dr Ciara Kelly said prevention is much better than cure.

"Prevention includes weight management, exercises that strengthen and stretch and good posture. Things like how you sit, stand and lie all have a role to play. Sitting, standing and lying can exacerbate back pain, so good posture, ergonomic seating, orthopedic mattresses and changing position regularly are all important."

Former Irish rugby star Gordon D'Arcy said a lot of clients who come to his Form School suffer with their backs. "Sitting, or indeed driving, for long periods can be the root cause of their difficulties, so this issue is certainly not something that's unique to athletes," he added.

"How you sit can have just as much of an impact on those muscles as how you move, so anything that's focused on the everyday prevention of something as debilitating as back pain, like Reformer Pilates or, in this case Opel's AGR carefully crafted seating systems, is really positive in my opinion."

So before you buy your next car do take a good long sit in it and see how the seats support you and your passengers. The car may have an array of hi-tech; it may look a million dollars but what good are they if you emerge all aches and pains?

Your motto should be 'backs for the future' because one things is for sure: we all face the prospect of spending longer sitting in ours cars.

How are your car seats? ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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