How Active Sitting Helps Undo The Harmful Effect Of Passive Office Chairs

When you spend all day in an office chair you will likely find that as the day wears on you find aches and pains starting to set in. And there's a good reason why this tends to happen. It all has to do with the design of many office seats which discourage active sitting. In fact most chairs do the opposite.

The negative effects of passive sitting
So what do we mean by passive sitting? When you sit in the average office chair it just isn't designed to encourage sufficient movement. The area which is affected most is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs.

It's a bit like a hinge. When you stand up back and legs open up like the hinge and as you sit down the hinge closes up again. It doesn't close up fully of course, instead what happens is you just end up being locked in the same position for hours and that's not good.

Think of it like the rare occasions when you need to turn of the water supply into your house. It can be very difficult as everything has seized up through lack of use. Of course we all know it's a good idea to periodically turn the supply on and off to keep it moving freely. And yet we never do it because we don't give it a thought, until it's a problem.

Not all office chairs are tarred with the same brush and some of the better quality seating from companies like HÅG, Steelcase and Herman Miller do encourage movement around the hinge area. Even so, they don't always provide as much movement as we need, sometimes a different approach is needed.

How can you achieve active sitting?
As explained above the fault with many chairs is the lack of body movement provided around the lower back and upper leg area. In the past this right angled way of sitting was considered to be the way to sit.

However what happens is that it places a lot of restriction on the use of the muscles in the abdominal region and over time they lose their tone and start causing problems.

Some enlightened manufacturers produce specialist seats which encourage a more active approach to sitting. First these seats place your legs at a much more open angle around 110° rather than the restrictive 90° so prevalent with office chairs. And then they take things a stage further by making it easy to move those core muscle through promoting active sitting.

A good example of such a seat is the Swopper stool from Aeris.

swopper in grey

Swopper Active Seat

Initially it looks like a stool with a spring around the center support, however it's only when you sit in it you discover what makes it different and why it keeps you body healthy and on the move. As you sit on it the seat pad angles forwards and you use your feet to control the seat.

The overall effect of this is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs becomes far more active. As you go about your work the Swopper keeps things moving and so your muscles get used, keeping healthy and active.

Other seats which work in a similar way include the Move stool by Varier and the Muvman which we looked at in a recent post.

Of course the downside is that you have to replace your existing chair, at least until now.

Enter the Human Tool Balance seat
This clever seat acts as an adapter to convert your passive seat into an active one, here's how it does it.

human tool balance

Human Tool Balance Seat

It has a saddle shaped upholstered seat which is mounted on a large plastic ball. All you need to do is to place it on your existing chair and sit on it. Because of the design the saddle shape of the seat straight away sets your legs at a healthy open angle.

Then as you work and move it lets you move, front to back as well as side to side. Consequently the whole of your lower body is far more active, leaving little chance that those core muscles will seize up any more.

And it works with other seats too, even easy chairs and sofas. For these types of seats which often have spongy cushions it comes with a round wooden board which you place on the seat first to stop the ball sinking into the upholstery.

The other great thing is the cost, it's about $160 which is certainly a lot less than buying a full new active seat.

Let's quickly summarize what we've covered here:

  • Passive sitting isn't good as your core muscles weaken thorough lack of use
  • Some better quality chairs do encourage more active movement
  • Specialist seats will help you to enjoy active sitting
  • The Human Tool seat lets you easily convert passive seats to active ones

Further reading
Here's where you can find more about the Swopper, Move, Muvman and Human Tool seats. They will help stop your body resembling that seized up water inlet supply.

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One Response to “How Active Sitting Helps Undo The Harmful Effect Of Passive Office Chairs”

  1. There are many types of ergonomic chairs available for use in the office. No one type of office chair is necessarily the best, but there are some things that are very important to look for in a good ergonomic office chair.

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