Yesterday, I talked about the dangers of prolonged sitting. In a perfect world, we would all be able to use a standing desk, a treadmill desk, or another healthy work set-up. Alas, most of us are stuck in a real world that doesn’t always have the budget or the physical space to accommodate such innovations.
If you are stuck sitting in a chair, here are some measures you can take to keep yourself healthy, comfortable, and productive.
- Get up and move. There is some research to support this, and it just makes sense. Break up long bouts of sitting by standing up, walking around, doing some stretches, etc. Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of IM-ing or e-mailing. Get a drink of water. If you tend to get wrapped up in your work, set a timer to remind you to get up and move every half hour or so.
- Select a chair with light padding so that you can feel your sitz bones, those knobs at the base of your derriere. More “comfortable” chairs, with lots of padding, disconnect you from your experience of sitting. Developing awareness of the connection between your sitz bones and your chair encourages you to be a more active sitter.
- Don’t exaggerate your lumbar curve, as many conventional ergonomics articles urge you to do. Instead, adjust your chair so that it supports your thorax, elongating your spine to take pressure off of your low back. Posture expert Esther Gokhale teaches a stretchsitting technique that can help you achieve this goal.
- Adjust your chair so that your hips are higher than your knees. This opens up the hip joint a bit and encourages a more erect posture. Make sure that the front of your chair drops down in the front, rather than curving or tilting upward, so that your hamstrings aren’t compressed while you sit.
- Better yet, use a chair that lets you open your hip joint to 135 degrees. A 2006 research study demonstrated that this is the “best biomechanical sitting position.” This angle is very close to the “horse stance” in martial arts and to the ideal posture for riding a horse.
- A saddle chair is a very comfortable way to achieve this goal. These chairs look a bit like a bicycle seat, letting your legs drop down lower than they could in any kind of conventional chair.
- A kneeling chair can also open the hips fairly close to this angle, but even the best-designed kneeling chairs can compress your shins. It’s also easier to slump in these chairs, so I favor the saddle chair.
Research evidence is building a strong case against prolonged sitting. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not-too-distant future we’ll all have a options in our work set-ups that will save our backs and protect us from other dangers of sitting. For now, try some of these ideas.