Did you know that sitting at a desk all day can actually be worse than smoking or eating donuts? Just think about how much time you spend each day in the sitting position. Don’t forget to include the time you spent commuting back and forth, the time spent at your desk, time spent sitting down for various meals, as well as any time spent watching TV or reading. Unfortunately, even if you carve out a small window of time to exercise, it’s not necessarily enough to offset all of those hours in the seated position.
So, how can a person sit less? There are two answers, with the obvious one being to simply stand up. However, standing all day has its own set of challenges and is not always realistic for people with busy daily lives. This brings us to the second solution: balanced active sitting. While old-school ergonomics aimed to brace the body into one ideal position, balanced active sitting supports the human body’s basic necessity for movement. It improves posture, activates the body’s core while sitting, and improves circulation and energy so the person can be more productive at work (and life in general).
According to research, “balancing” is one way to improve one’s memory and cognition by requiring a complex synchronization of mental function and physical movement. One of the four main classifications of fitness — along with strength, endurance and flexibility — is balance. It is often overlooked; however, it is one of the most critical components and lends itself to the office setting. Challenging the body’s ability to balance is the most effective way to strengthenthe paraspinal muscles in the postural system. These muscles keep the vertebra aligned in the spine, support proper posture and are critical to maintaining good balance.
Some of the latest specialty office furniture — like balance chairs — can help activate this required balance, helping one control the amount of energy it takes to stay on one’s center of gravity. With this method, one not only improves one’s posture and burns calories, but also stays more alert and focused, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
TIPS TO FIGHT THE SITTING EPIDEMIC
- Take laps around the house during phone meetings.
- Schedule a 15-minute walk each day. Even for those who work alone and don’t need to notify colleagues, putting it on the calendar or To Do list helps ensure it actually gets done.
- Invest in a chair that promotes balanced active sitting.
- While running errands, always park in a spot farthest from the door to get in some additional steps.
- Work on balance! It is one of the four main classifications of fitness (along with strength, endurance and flexibility). Ironically, balance is often overlooked even though it is essential and it lends itself perfectly to the work setting.
- Always take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Practice balance while watching TV. If the chair promotes balance therapy, see if it has a convertible function — such as removing the seat to allow the person to balance while standing.
Scott Bahneman is an ergonomics industry expert, and founder and chairman of SitTight®, a company that has transformed sitting into an activity that improves a person’s health by using the body’s natural ability to balance and which won the bronze at the 2018 Edison Awards.