“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind, and I like to write standing up.” Ernest Hemingway
Chairs are dangerous? We are so used to being seated that it never occurs to us that something as trivial as a chair can harm our health. It is generally known that a sedentary lifestyle is harming your health. You have probably seen recent articles and blogposts stating that sitting is the new smoking. You can see messages everywhere urging you to move more.
Nevertheless, we rarely imagine a world without chairs, seats or sofas – something that has been the case for hundreds of thousands of years. Until a few centuries ago chairs were pure luxury. Standing on your feet most of the time was normal. Humans taking a short rest, sat on the floor, a tree, or whatever was available. I repeat, a short rest, not spending the majority of your life seated as it is the case nowadays.
So what exactly is so bad about sitting?
Being seated is unnatural for the simple reason that your body is not made for this activity (or lack thereof). On the contrary, your body is made to be moving all day long.
In a nutshell, this is what happens when we sit:
- When seated, your butt, which keeps you straight with correct posture, stops being active and gets floppy. Your hip flexors shorten, resulting in a considerable loss of flexibility.
- When your butt is not working actively, the job is being taken over by the lumbar zone, which was not meant to do so. This results in back pain, affecting 8 out of every 10 persons.
- Bone density decreases due to lack of movement.
- Being seated is not as comfortable as one might think. This unnatural “movement” forces the body to be in postures that block the blood flow. It can even hinder your respiration and intestinal functions.
- There are many studies linking a sedentary lifestyle with increasing degenerative diseases, such as heart problems, obesity, diabetes, depression, etc.
- Not to mention other studies that relate reach inactivity factor to mortality.
All this is very interesting, but despite all the evidence, are we taking these facts seriously?
I don’t think so.
We ignore this knowledge until the day we can no longer move without difficulty.
Do this little exercise and then let me know the results:
- Sit on the floor.
- Now try to stand up without holding or supporting yourself.
An increasing number of people in the Western world are not able to perform this simple exercise. As a species, we have lost the mobility we once had.
This study goes as far as relying on the ability to sit on the floor and stand up without support for predicting death.
For many years, I had a desk job, spending hours and hours seated, trying to catch up on being active outside during my non-working hours.
I suffered a painful neck and back ailments of various kinds.
Although working out almost daily has always helped to alleviate the problems, it was not enough, and I spent quite a bit of money on therapies and massages.
But it never occurred to me to stop sitting until I started my own business working most of the time at home.
One day, I decided to get rid of the chairs and couch.
I recycled my ironing table, using it as a standup desk, and I bought some quality cushions and a low table to do my writing and computer work while sitting on the floor. Sitting on the ground is very different than in a chair. The floor has been our resting area for thousands of years. Although at the beginning it might be a bit uncomfortable, after a while you will find your preferred comfortable posture.
And believe it or not, I started to get much more than encouraging results. Today I can say that:
- My back pain has disappeared almost completely.
- My mobility and flexibility in the legs and hips has improved considerably.
According to experts we should not spend more than 10 minutes sitting at a time. Although it may seem unattainable, we must go slowly and gradually. Be realistic according to your situation but do not let perfectionism prevent you from daily improvement.
My Three Proposals
- Analyze (seriously) the amount of hours you spent sitting daily (home, work, street, transportation, gym …).
- Stop or reduce them considerably by changing your habits, even if it’s one habit per week.
- Do it for a period long enough to automatize the habit (at least three weeks) and measure the results.
Tricks that may help
- Redecorate your living room to create a cozy area to live closer to the ground: tables, zafus, fiber carpets, colorful cushions.
- Grab a table so you can work standing up or make one yourself adjusted to your personal height, using books, boxes, shelves…
- Eat breakfast, lunch and/or dinner standing or sitting on the floor.
- If you watch TV, forget the sofa and watch from the floor. You can train your abdominals or stretch while watching your favorite program.
- If you work in an office, propose creating a working area where you can work on the ground and/or work standing with high tables. An increasing number of companies are offering this possibility to their employees. Some are even starting to hold standing or walking meetings.
- Walk or take the bike instead of the car whenever possible. If you take public transport, stand up if you can (give an old lady your seat).
- If the weather is nice, go outdoors to have lunch. If you have the chance, have lunch in a park or garden where you can sit on the grass.
- If you go to the gym and use fitness machines, avoid the ones where you have to sit down. Consider working out outdoors to prevent sitting and enjoy the sun and fresh air.
You will begin to recover your natural mobility gradually, noticing more flexible in your back (which will forever thank you ).
And you? Do you spend too many hours sitting? What can you do to reduce this time? Do not forget to take action and share your experiences with us!