Sitting has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately. It’s the new smoking. 6 hours equal to a pack a day. Metabolic disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, all blamed on the humble chair.
Sounds pretty drastic, so let’s have a quick look at why it’s an issue, and then a couple of ideas to help kick your sitting habit and get your body working better.
The biggest problem with chairs is that they’ve stopped us from going all the way down to the ground and all the way back up again. Instead, we just go half as far down, and then half as far back up again, and then repeat. Mechanically, our body is missing out big time. Our spine doesn’t flex like it should, our hips and knees and ankles don’t bend like they should, our organs don’t get squeezed like they should, our blood doesn’t get pumped like it should, and our muscles don’t put in as much effort as they should. Over time, by avoiding the full journey of getting down and up from the floor, we become weaker, stiffer, and our muscles and joints and organs begin to suffer.
The other big problem with chair sitting is that there’s so much of it. It’s everywhere. In the car, at home, at work, on the bus – even waiting for the bus. We can’t completely avoid it of course, but we really do need to look for ways to reduce it. I call these counter-chairism tactics. These are two of my favourites:
Standing desks. Set one up at home, at work, wherever you do lots of desk or computer work. When we sit all the time our body gets stuck, conformed into the shape of the chair, and all of our cells become a bit stagnant. With standing, we’re much more free to move into and out of our workstation, and we can squat or bend or twist to break up our position in a flash. It does take a bit of time to get used to, so don’t get rid of the office chair just yet. Build it up gradually.
Swap the couch for the floor. If you have some relaxing time each evening, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to jump off the couch and hit the carpet. Sitting on the floor again offers you the freedom to change your body’s shape, and rest into a variety of positions that help unwind, retune and reorganise your muscles and joints. Not only are you reducing your chair sitting but you’re also adding in some high-octane therapy for your body. Ten minutes a night of moving through a variety of floor postures can make a huge difference to your legs, hips and back.