Look what we’ve done to food.
What used to come from the ground and be quite good for you, is now flavored in a factory off the Jersey turnpike. We know how that’s worked out for our health.
You might say the same about the workstation.
Through the early 1900s, most people stood at their office desks. Franklin, Churchill, Da Vinci, Nabokov, and Hemingway all preferred it. But most of us now sit – and die faster as a result. 20% faster, if you believe a recent study cited by the New York Times.
Riding a recent resurgence in standing desks comes Rhode Island-based startup Focal Upright Furniture. We’ve never seen anything quite like its Locus Workstation, which includes a full-articulated desk, footrest, and seat.
The seat is the most remarkable. Inspired by an old tractor seat (but hopefully softer), it has you perched somewhere between sitting and standing, a position found to be the most ideal by founder and designer Martin Keen.
You may recognize Keen’s name. Apparently a master of the hybrid, he previously made his mark with the eponymous footwear company he founded, known for its half-shoe, half-sandal favored by outdoor enthusiasts.
The full Locus setup from Focal will run you more than $2,000 – not cheap. But what price for a longer life? Check it out here.
Or, if it’s a less expensive standing option you seek, check out these IKEA hacks – where a couple hundred bucks will get you upright.
Now go forth (and get up already).
1899: Year School Hygiene is published, stating a seated desk can “injure the abdominal organs and the circulation”
1977: Year Nabokov died at 78 from bronchitis (not from sitting)
3: Moans, in descending pitch, uttered by Nabokov upon his death according to his son
Portland’s mayor wants city residents to stand up more. Charlie Hales proclaimed July 17 Stand Up for Workplace Wellness Day.
Dr. Claire Wheeler is a professor of community health at Portland State University. At a hearing to declare war on chairs, she said too much sitting increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
For years, she says, people have taken the advice of their doctors and exercised 45 minutes a day. But then they’ve gone back to lie on a couch, sit at a desk or drive.
“Those people think that they’re physically active,” she said. “But intact the rates of heart disease and other illnesses are pretty much the same for them as well,” she explained.
“So we’ve identified a new risk factor, it seems to be even more significant than smoking. An hour of sitting in a chair, can take more time off your life than smoking a single cigarette,” she said.
City Commissioner Steve Novick called for his colleagues to set an example by taking some meetings standing up.
It’s great to be part of such a progressive city and community.
Mayor Hales, we stand with you!
Yoga for Standing Desk Users
Start with a combination of Mountain Pose (tadasana) followed by Standing Half Moon (ardha chandrasana), a side bending pose.Move to Tree (vrksasana) on each side and then into Mountain Pose with arms over head (urdhva hastasana).Interlace fingers behind back and fold forward (Yoga mudra), and finish with a Standing Forward Fold with an easy twist: One hand on the earth (under the face) other hand extended to sky. End in Mountain Pose.
An increasing amount of research confirms the negative health effects of prolonged sitting, which so many of us do when not running. Studies in this new field of “inactive physiology” have suggested that too much sitting should be considered an independent risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Of course, too much sitting is also bad for runners because of the havoc it wreaks on our hips and hamstrings.
Introduction to kneeling chairs
All of us would love the chance to be more active during the day. Unfortunately, the fact for many of us is extended periods of sitting is part of our daily reality. It’s been the norm for so long, it feels like there really isn’t an alternative to sitting in a traditional office chair for eight hours per day. The kneeling chair concept was invented to reduce the amount of damage we do to our bodies during these prolonged periods of sitting.
The kneeling chair encourages an upright and natural posture, an open hip angle, and proper spine alignment. Sound familiar? The same basic principles that make the saddle seat an excellent option for active sitting are also fundamental components of kneeling chairs. Both the kneeling chair and saddle seat encourage your body to move while seated, they just approach it differently.
The kneeling chair works by aligning the user’s head, spine, and hips through the ankle while seated. This position not only fully supports the spine without the need for lumbar or back support, but requires the user to regularly readjust and find this natural balance line.
When getting ready to fall asleep tonight, take note of the position of your legs. Chances are you don’t sleep with them at a 90 degree angle in front of you, but rather tucked under you slightly. Kneeling chairs achieve this same posture by tilting the pelvis forward in the chair while supporting the body’s weight with knee pads/platforms.
For those with lower work surface heights a kneeling chair can be a great option to encourage active sitting.
Ergo Depot offers a number of kneeling chairs from the Varier Balans collection. To learn more about which chair might be best for you, give us a call or check out the video below.
Active Sitting: Saddle Seats
It’s probably obvious we’re big fans of the HAG Capisco, but many other saddle seats such as Via’s Swopper, the Varier Move stool, and the Bambach saddle seat offer nearly identical benefits as the Capisco.
The Swopper is one the more fun saddle seats on the market. Its spring mechanism encourages not just movement but actual bouncing. Many users find the Swopper similar to the experience of working on an exercise ball, but without the hassle of pumping it up once a week plus the added flexibility to vary your seat height as needed.
The Varier Move stool is one of the most popular saddle chair options for people with a taller work surface. The Move stool offers the perfect amount of support for workers who want to take a break from standing and perch on their seat for a spell. The concave bottom allows you to lean forward on the saddle, as opposed to just sitting on top of the seat, further opening the hip angle. The Move stool is also designed to encourage repositioning your weight and rebalancing yourself throughout the day. Again, similar to an exercise ball, but actually designed for sitting.
Last, and certainly not least, is the Bambach saddle seat. Specifically designed to minimize many common complaints associated with extended sitting (neck, shoulder, and back pain), this Australian-designed saddle seat is quickly becoming one of our most popular saddle seats. For horse or motorcycle riders the saddle on this chair will feel very familiar. For those of you who are used to slouching your way through your work day, the Bambach saddle seat hardly gives you a chance.
This all sounds great, but my lower back isn’t in good shape and I don’t think I could make it without lumbar support.
The long and short of it is: when your spine is properly aligned, lumbar support (in the form of a backrest) isn’t necessary. That’s not to say sitting back and relaxing is something to be avoided at all costs, but it’s important to recognize why back support is present in traditional task chairs, and absent in most saddle seats and kneeling chairs. When we move away from the 90° sitting angle, to something closer to 130°, the lower part of the spine that creates the “S” shape is able to fully support the upper body. When we are sitting with an 90° angle the pelvis is positioned in a way that straightens out (rather than maintains the curve) this crucial part of our spine.
This advice works for many people, but not for everyone. If you have any type of the medical issue involving the back, hips, or any other area affected while you are seated, we would strongly advise consulting with a medical professional on your specific situation.
Active Sitting: Saddle Seats
How is your active sitting going? While taking more breaks throughout the day seems like a no-brainer, sometimes it’s just impossible to get away from your desk. We receive dozens of calls and emails each week asking what can be done to help alleviate the discomfort of sitting for 8 - 10 hours per day for those who plainly can’t leave their desk as often as they’d like.
Our responses to these questions usually vary depending on what type of work environment someone is in. One option people return to time and again is a saddle seat. And, as users of the HAG Capisco chair we couldn’t agree more.
The American market is catching up to what workers in Europe and Australia have known for years: a flat, deep seat pan isn’t necessarily the best way to work—it’s certainly not the most ergonomic.
So, what makes a saddle seat a good choice for my new task chair?
Glad you asked.
Saddle seats allow your legs to rest down in front of you rather than positioning the thighs directly in front, parallel to the floor. In other words, the cutouts let gravity do its job on the legs, letting the legs settle downward with the knees ending up below the waist in an open angle position. This position allows you to more evenly distribute your weight throughout the lower half of your body instead of relying on your lower back to keep your spine aligned. An open hip angle encourages proper spine alignment, facilitating not just better posture, but better breathing and circulation.
Saddle seats (along with kneeling chairs) do a remarkable job of helping your spine stay in alignment. Because your body has to work a little bit harder in a saddle seat—keeping your spine aligned properly requires more from your core muscles than a traditional chair—these types of chairs naturally facilitate active sitting without the user thinking much about it throughout the day.
Plus, it just feels better than slouching back in a chair for several hours per day.
We’ll be following up with specific saddle seat recommendations in the next couple days. In the mean time, we’d love to hear what your favorite saddle seat is in the comments.
Update: Our post on specific saddle seats is available here.
Active Sitting: A new way to work
It’s amazing what an evening walk can do to clear your head after a tiring day of work. Moving around after sitting in the same position for several hours in a row almost feels like a luxury. While it’s unlikely the benefits of a family walk can be replicated in the sitting experience in an office chair, there are tools which can help your body feel better at the end of your day.
We are major advocates of Active Sitting. No, that doesn’t mean chair dancing in your cubical—though if you decide to take that up please send us the video footage. What active sitting means to us is the ability to vary your position throughout your work day. Whether that means raising your worksurface so you are able to perch on the edge of your chair, using a saddle seat or kneeling chair for your work, or simply taking more frequent breaks throughout the day—it’s whatever works best for you.
The idea of “taking breaks” doesn’t sound like it fits into the idea of “active sitting” for some folks. For us at Ergo Depot, we believe that varying your position throughout the day, either in a chair or out, will help your body feel better. By getting up from your desk and taking a walk around the office or the block, your blood will oxygenate, improving your mental acuity and attention span. Of course, after your break it’s tough to plop down in the chair that gave you those leg cramps and lower back pain to begin with.
There are, of course, ways of avoiding the discomfort that comes from sitting in a traditional office chair for 40 hours per week: Don’t sit in one! Alternative seating options such as saddle seats and kneeling chairs are making their way into offices across the country and users are finding their bodies responding well to the change.
Tune in next week to find out why a saddle chair could be the change your body needs to stay focused throughout the day.