A number of years ago, the quest was on to design the perfect office chair. This gave rise to massive amounts of research going into finding how best to support the butt and back as people sit. The dream was that the perfect chair would eradicate back pain forever.
Marry the perfect chair with internet technology, and you have a huge percentage of the population that now no longer need to stand. Years ago, if you needed a file you would have to stand up and fetch it. Now all you need is a brain, a pair of eyes and a hand. The rest of the human body has become redundant. Except….
Your body was designed to move. Your cardiovascular system needs exercise- it needs regular movement. Your muscles need exercise, they get weak really quickly. Your digestive and energy systems of your body need work to do in order to use up the fuel that they drive into your cells.
A study of bus drivers and conductors carried out by Transport for London in the 1950s found that bus drivers were 1.5 times as likely to develop heart disease as conductors, who stood more often.
As you sit:
– Electrical activity to your leg muscles shuts off.
– Your calorie burning rate drops to 1 calorie per minute
– Enzymes that break fat down drop by 90%
After 2 hours:
– Your good cholesterol drops by 20%
– Your insulin effectiveness drops and your risk of diabetes rises.
- The weaker your cardiovascular system is, the less energy you will have, and the more prone to disease you will become. This includes stroke, heart disease and deep vein thrombosis.
- Weaker muscles = lower and upper back problems, headaches etc. Remember that your bones are subject to your muscles. For the most part, people with ‘back’ problems have muscle weakness that has led to some form of spinal problem. I chatted to a physio who does locum work. Her insights were fascinating. She had just finished a two month stint in a typically blue collar factory area and had seen lots of factory type injuries. Now she was doing work in the Sandton area. Gone were the factory injuries, enter the office injuries, lower and upper back, carpel tunnel syndrome and lots of headaches.
Your spine is an interconnected unit. Stress on one part may effect another through a chain reaction of events. Alois Brügger, a Swiss neurologist, used a cogwheel mechanism to describe this postural chain reaction. As your hips slouch backward, the curve in your spine is reduced, your shoulders slouch forward and your head moves forward putting increased stress on the neck muscles and increasing your chances of headaches. Hope I have you sitting upright at this point.
So, what to do?
Get up and get some exercise. The more seat bound your job, the more you need to move. I am going out on a limb here, by saying that you need a minimum of four hours of training a week. Also, you need to get up at least every hour during your office hours, and go for a brisk walk. Raise your heart rate, move the blood around your body, get your muscles pumping again.
Incorporate core training into your weekly regime. I wrote an article on planking that might prove helpful. Your physio or personal trainer will also be able to give you some exercises to get you going.
Put pressure on your company to install some upright desks so that you can alternate
times of both sitting and standing.
Use the stairs.
I am not an expert in ergonomics, but maybe the future of the chair is to ditch the highly supportive chair that does all the work for you, and return to using your own muscles, as you were intended to.
You can read more regarding structures that tighten up here – The damage you do when you sit too much.
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