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rest... but get out of your seat!
I like to call chairs ‘sitting devices’. This helps to highlight linguistically that a chair is a type of modern technology.
Our bodies haven’t adapted for the frequent usage of most modern technologies.
They have evolved for an active, outdoorsy life on the savannah.
Although it might seem absolutely mad to imagine this in today’s world, chairs only really went mainstream about 250 years ago during the Industrial Revolution. This was because jobs became more stationary so the need for them increased and the raw materials and tools required for mass furniture production became cheaper and more readily available.
I will say it again, chairs (insert: seats, cars, sofas, push-chairs, car-seats) are a modern technology. 250 years in the grand scheme of human evolution isn’t very long at all.
Your body is not designed to spend multiple hours everyday locked in any one position.
We all spend multiple hours everyday stuck in a chair and have done since childhood.
A terrifying statistic from Vybarr Cregan-Reid’s amazing book, Primate Change, is that Westerners now spend, on average, 70-100 hours PER WEEK sat in a chair.
This is why we are all breaking down at younger and younger ages … NOT age, NOT genetics and NOT sports.
what can we do?
One of the easiest ways to mix up your movement profile, expand your movement repertoire and start ‘un-chairing’ yourself is by simply spending less time in a chair. Simples.
Rest does not, and should not, have to equal ‘in a chair’.
Rest can be lying on the ground, lying prone, sitting cross legged, squatting (yes, this is the natural human resting position) or any other number of stationary positions.
Look at this diagram below for some ideas.
The sooner we can start to de-normalise our chronic chair usage and categorise it as something totally alien to our primal bodies, the better.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff wrong with spending lots of time sat down in a chair, but one of the biggest problems is that when you sit in a chair you are subcontracting the work from your muscles into the cheap labour of the chair. Your muscles melt and switch off and joints start crushing in on each other.
Being out of a chair, in practically any position on the floor, will be forcing you to use your muscles (that’s why it’s tiring, but it’ll get easier the more you do it) and will also be forcing you to fidget.
The more time we can spend on harder surfaces which don’t support us, the more we will forced to fidget. This wakes up muscles and is good for us.
My answer to ‘what is the best chair to have at my workstation?’ is always ‘the hardest, most uncomfortable and least supportive one you can find’. You don’t need a fancy ergonomic chair propping you up, you want MUSCLES propping you up.
We’ve got a long way to go before we revolutionise the work place to be more conducive to the long (and short) term health of employees, and there’s not too much we can individually do about the state of normal working places, but we must each be accountable and responsible for what we’re doing and how we’re spending our spare time.
Unavoidable 2 hours commute each day? Unavoidable 8 hour desk job shift everyday? Fair enough.
But you have control over what you do outside of this. I’m not saying don’t watch TV, I’m saying watch TV in a different position than you normally would. And try a different position everyday of the week. You can even try and do some light stretches on the floor. You can try walking the 15 minutes to the shop rather than driving. You can get your family doing silly little movement competitions (“who can do 10 jumping jacks in the quickest time?”).
There’s so much stuff you CAN do to make your life more movement rich, and you don’t need to do anything too special or too overwhelming to start.
Once you have started, it becomes much easier to start weaving more and more movement in everyday, until you might not WANT to spend your whole evening slouched on a couch.
I get it, we live in a world which is depressingly working against us pretty hard, but every little bit we can do to get ourselves out of chairs (and shoes) will help us tremendously.