One of the most common questions we’re asked is “which is the best type of office chair?” The simple answer is- no chair at all! The better the ergonomic support on your chair, the more comfortable it is and the longer you’ll be tempted to spend sitting in it. Recent research has stressed that too many hours sitting might be just as harmful to our health as smoking.
Irrespective of the amount of time you spend in the gym, sitting is and will remain, bad for your health and brief bouts of strenuous exercise are not enough to counteract the negative effects of sitting. This is why there is now a growing trend towards using gym balls or standing desks in the office to increase physical activity- we have them in some of our clinics!
Why is this? Sitting is one of the most passive things you can do and involves less calorific expenditure than chewing gum. When we’re sitting, our muscles burn less fat and blood flow decreases, which can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, increased “bad” cholesterol levels and increased abdominal fat(1). From a chiropractic perspective, there is already an established strong link between sitting posture and back pain, which is yet another reason to avoid too much time spent in the chair. Research has found that adults in Western countries spend between 55-70% of their day sitting, which works out at between 5-8 hours daily- we now know that adults who spend over 10 hours sitting each day have a 34% higher mortality risk, even after taking physical activity into account. (2)
What needs to be done?
Researchers and healthcare practitioners are calling for a paradigm shift in the way in which we live and work, as the key solution to this problem is less sitting and more overall movement. Studies have identified key factors which contribute to our overall sitting time (see the image below) and now these have been identified, it is up to us to implement them in our day-to-day lives.
You might think that changing the amount of time you spend sitting is going to be difficult, but there are a number of simple modifications that can be made, for example:
- Try parking further away from the office door to increase the distance you walk.
- Take the stairs, not the lift.
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
- Walk laps with your colleagues, rather than sitting in meetings.
- Put an alert on your phone or computer to remind you to move every 30 minutes or so.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day- this will not only mean you are better hydrated but you’ll also take more breaks to go the bathroom!
- Go for family walks after dinner- not only will this boost your metabolism and activity levels, but it is also a great way to promote physical activity in your family.
The impact of these small changes can be quite profound.
– Calorie consumption will increase, which may lead to weight loss and increased energy.
– Mini-breaks from your desk can increase the accuracy of your work and improve performance.
– Postural stresses and strains will be reduced, which will help alleviate work-related pain and discomfort.
The muscle activity needed for standing and other movements triggers processes that help to breakdown sugars and fats within the body. Even by standing whilst reading this blog post, you’ll have helped kick those processes back into action!