The last few years has seen a massive rise in the mantra “Sitting is the New Smoking.”
Now I take umbrage with this statement on a few levels.
First of all in our classic black and white films post-coital couples are not reclining in chairs saying “wow this chair is fantastic.”
Second chairs don’t kill people, smoking does, so it’s a pretty sensationalist and spurious analogy.
And if we were take it a little further sitting doesn’t kill people; stillness kills people (and by kill I mean, it very, very slowly damages muscles and tendons via disuse).
But before we get into the problems of sitting OR standing still for extended periods we have to look at where and why chairs are such a common part of our society.
So where did the chair come from?
As our ancestors left Africa in search of greener pastures they also began using objects to raise them off the wet ground when gathered together.
Often however these were rocks, or stumps of wood, or other objects.
It wasn’t until the Ancient Egyptians (and King Tut in particular) that the chair as we know it became a thing. And at that time a chair was an extremely valuable and ornate object, created and permitted for the delicate derriere’s of the Pharaoh and ruling classes only.
As the Egyptian empire crumbled and the Greeks and then the Romans took up the slack the humble chair became a pariah to the civilised people of their Empires.
The Romans particularly loved their beds, or their half couch half bed, the Divian (still found in the treatment rooms of Psychiatrists) and found the chair too restricting and uncomfortable for their civilised society.
When the Romans gathered together to talk about their fave Gladiators and their latest affairs they wouldn’t do it on the raised stool of the modern dive bar but instead they would recline luxuriously on couches, or Divians, opposite one another eating hand peeled grapes.
Toward the end of the Roman Empire chairs for the rulers came back in vogue, the kingdoms and Catholic Church that overtook Europe during the Dark Ages maintained this Chair paradigm whereby Rulers would raise themselves above the plebs on the back of a gold edged throne.
And that was the way it stayed until the economic centralisation that occurred during the European Renaissance brought wealthy traders and noblemen into trading houses, where they would sit and drink and discuss world events.
However we have drifted off track.
Chairs are now as synonymous with our working lives as computers. The issue with them is that are comfortable and as such we do not need to move when we are on them
The human body thrives on movement and varied movement. The more movement you do the more capable your body is at adapting to different movements or forces you place upon it.
However when we are working at a desk very little movement occurs and we tend to get sore.
Ergonomic companies have made a massive industry out of this. New fancy chairs, foot rests, moving desks, walking desks and computer stands proliferate the corporate offices of the world.
And they’re aren’t bad things. It’s just that even with all these fancy accoutrements office workers are sore. Headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, low back pain, knee pain all present secondary to sitting still in fancy ergonomically correct offices
However nice your set up, if you are still you will get sore, it matters not whether you are sitting or standing or lying, you will get sore (admittedly the more exercise/movement you do outside of work the more resilient you are to desk-bound injuries).
Movement engages muscles. Muscles are driven by nerves. Nerves carry messages from the brain to the muscles. Muscles are fuelled by arteries that carry nutrients. Muscles move bodies.
Think of movement as a health flushing of the body, muscles, tendons, nerves and joints inclusive.
Stillness is the opposite. When we’re still our body stops producing the things that make our bodies healthy. Our muscles ache, our tendons start to weaken, our balancing patterns are limited, our reflexes dampen and we fatigue.
So there’s a happy medium. Have yourself a good desk set up and then move.
Move for a few minutes every 30 minutes. Swing your arms, do handstands, have push up competitions, do squats, do the worm across the office
ANNDDD exercise outside of work hours. Use your body, push it, challenge it such that it is more resistant to the challenges of sitting still at work all day.
Or get a job where you’re moving all day. Like as an Osteo maybe…..