I’ve been sitting in chairs of one kind or another for a lot of my life. Starting with school and then college – although at art college I also did a lot of kneeling on cold floors! And then at work – for the last sixteen years or so I’ve worked as a web developer, using computers and sitting in chairs for most of the day.
It’s left me overweight, unfit, and with a bad back.
But, I am still working, and so I am still sitting, for a large part of the day.
And while getting regular exercise is a great start to improve health, it’s not enough. I need to move better more often throughout the day and that means trying to use different working positions to minimise the overall impact of each one.
Recently, “sitting” has become somewhat demonised in the media – “sitting is the new smoking”. Too much sitting has multiple negative impacts on our health, and as a result people are looking for alternatives to sitting for work. “Standing desks” have got a lot of interest as a way to work in a different position from sitting in a chair. And these are a great alternative as long as you don’t just end up standing all day!
It’s not just about sitting or standing, it’s about the negative effects of staying in single fixed positions for large parts of the day. Ideally we need to work in multiple positions throughout the day, moving around, sitting on different types of chairs, sitting on the floor in different ways, standing, squatting, lying down etc. to minimise the effects of staying in one or two positions all day.
But this is hard. At the moment I only really have two positions I can sit in comfortably to work:
1. The sofa
I use a laptop on a wooden tray on my lap. This isn’t ideal as I’m sitting in a soft chair and the position of my arms and neck are not ideal. But I currently don’t seem to be able to sit on any other type of chair without getting quite a lot of back discomfort quite quickly – this has been the case since I first pulled my back a few years ago.
2. A Swiss ball
I have an exercise ball at my desk. This is okay if I watch my posture, but I often find I’m slouching forward which is not good.
So I need to find more positions to work in.
I’ve just read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman which I recommend to anyone who wants to improve their health, particularly home workers – the book points out that if we spend a lot of our time fixed in these positions, like sitting in chairs, we will end up with bodies adapted to doing those things – muscle lengths change, your joint flexibility changes, and then when we try to do other “non-sitting” activities which we don’t do very often, that’s when we run into trouble, we pull our backs, or find we just can’t do them.
I’m currently working through the second part of “Move Your DNA” – “Move”, which is a comprehensive set of stretches and exercises designed to bring back better flexibility and more natural movement ability to your body. I currently can’t touch my toes, or sit in a deep squat, and I hope to be able to do these things again, eventually, with the help of these exercises.
Hopefully as my flexibility improves I’ll be able to add an increasing number of working positions like standing, lying down, sitting on the floor, and maybe eventually even some squatting, but for now I just have to concentrate on doing the exercises regularly and taking regular breaks from sitting.
I try to get up at least ten minutes in every hour and I’ve been putting those short breaks to better use which is something I’ll write about soon.
I’ll post an update when I improve enough to add some of these new positions to my working day.