Ergonomists have known for more than 30 years that sitting in the same position all day causes a host of health problems that include back and hip pain, obesity and related diseases. Workers with pain and illness are less productive, are absent more, and lead to increased insurance costs.
While long known, the problems of sitting all day have received quite a bit of press in the last year and a half after an article in the January 2010 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine released an article that said that “after four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals” that cause the genes regulating glucose and fat in the body to shut down. Further, these harmful affects exist even if the person gets regular exercise outside of the office. All of a sudden, articles sprang up everywhere announcing “Sitting can Kill You.”
However, so many of us have jobs that require us to be at a desk for long hours. What are we supposed to do to protect our comfort and health and still do our jobs? Standing, at least part of the day, is one great option. But what can you do while sitting?
Another inexpensive option is to add an active footrest such as The Webble. An active footrest rocks or moves to encourage blood flow to reduce the risks of sitting. In addition, movement increases alertness and energy levels so your productivity will be increased. This can be very helpful but what you are sitting on can make an even bigger difference.
Consider a non-typical chair.
A great idea is to use a chair that adds movement. There are a number of amazing chairs out there that add motion to your day. As an added bonus, they also can improve your core strength which supports your back which can prevent, or help ease, back pain. The chairs below all instantly improve your posture.
The Swopper Chair is a fun little stool that does a lot to improve your health. The Swopper looks like a Q-tip on a spring. It is height adjustable and the spring is tension adjustable so you can determine how much “action” you’d like. All you need to do is set the height for your body and sit. The movement occurs naturally.
A ten-year study was conducted by Dr. Detlef Krüger, who heads a research group on “workingsociology” and ergonomics at the Hamburg Technical College in Germany. Of those that had back pain, 60% used the Swopper for more than four hours a day and another 22% used the Swopper for two to four hours each day. More than 80% of these people said they felt noticeably better after using the Swopper. More than 40% also said they felt more energized.
I personally enjoy sitting on the Swopper and find that I intentionally will take a “bounce break” for a minute or two. I will alternate it with standing and a regular ergonomic chair (I swop chairs in the office often so I can get to know each one intimately).
Get on your knees.
No, not on the floor. The 30 or so old invention, the kneeling chair, is still alive and well and the right one can also be an excellent option for many people. The trick here, like with most chairs, is getting the right one. Many of the ergonomists I have spoken too aren’t fans of knee chairs because the typical body position involves anchoring your feet behind your knees and the position is fixed – two things that are not good for your circulation. Thus the typical, fixed position kneeling chair is good for part time use, but not for more than an hour or two at a time. In addition there is reason for concern if your knees are pressed firmly against pads all day as that can compromise the circulation in your lower legs.
However, Varier makes several Balans chair models that do not have these problems. To begin with the knee pads are adjustable to fit the leg so your body weight is not pressing against the knee pads. My favorite feature is that they rock. Yes, like a rocking chair and yes, it is possible to still work effectively as once you get used to it the movement is subtle. Plus, if you pop one leg out, you secure it in position. If you alternate one leg out then the other periodically, you resolve any concerns over locking your feet under your hips all day. Two of their models really rock my world. The Varier Thatsit Chair is absolutely amazing. When I first got to sit in one at Neocon this year, I had to be bribed to remove myself from the chair. The Thatsit has a backrest so it met all my requirements for an office chair and it was extremely comfortable.
The Varier Gravity Balans Chair has the potential to easily become your favorite recliner, as well as office chair. The headrest and padded arms make this a great napping spot (hey, all you geeks who work ridiculous hours should know a power nap is awesome). Reclining is reduces the compression in your spine so this would be a great position to assume while on the phone. Yet this chair easily allows for an upright typing position. This would be perfect for someone who has limited space at home, such as an apartment dweller, or limited money and wants a chair for the house that is multi-function.
In summary, if you’re looking for something non-traditional to sit on but still have concerns for comfort and ergonomic health, take a look off the beaten path towards task chairs and consider something else.
Tell us what you think. Do you sit in one of these or something else? Why do you like (or dislike) it?