Are you sitting comfortably? Tweaked the mysterious levers on your office chair? Perhaps you managed to grab a seat on your morning commute, or are looking forward to relaxing on your comfy sofa at home.
A multitude of scientific studies want you to reconsider. Research has suggested that sitting down could be one of our most dangerous daily behaviours, increasing our risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death.
We take a closer look at the health warnings surrounding our love for sitting down, and show that enjoying your favourite chair doesn’t have to result in assured death.
Your chair as a death trap
Chances are you’re sitting down to read this, which is contributing to the 9 hours you spend sitting down each day as an average British citizen. As a result, you could be putting yourself at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and cancers – notably breast, bowel, endometrial (womb lining) and lung cancers.
The following statistics demonstrate some of the most alarming effects of prolonged sitting:
- The risk of heart disease increases by 14% for every hour spent sitting down
- People who sit down the longest are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- Sitting and watching TV for more than 4 hours a day increases the risk of cardiovascular problems by 80%
- If you sit down for 7 hours a day, you have a 5% increased risk of premature death for every additional hour spent on a chair.
- A study covering 54 countries linked 3.8% of all deaths to prolonged sitting down.
These risks are mainly due to the effect sitting down has on your metabolism. Sitting for long periods slows your body’s systems, making it harder to break down body fat and regulate blood sugar levels. By contrast, your body is able to burn 30% more calories when you’re standing.
The risks are significant enough to have prompted Public Health England to publish a study advising on healthy seating practices at work. The main message is a clear: office workers need to get out of their seats more frequently. It is recommended that workers spend about 4 hours on their feet during working hours.
Your chair as a liberator
All these statistics are giving chairs a bad rep’ when there is great joy to be had from a good old sit down. It’s worth remembering that chairs have historically been awarded an important healthy function within our society.
The 20th century witnessed the birth of Scandinavian design movements which placed chairs at the centre of a happy, healthy domestic environment. Movements like ‘Danish Modern’ believed chairs had a unique social purpose and were designed to fit the shapes of the human body. Chairs were meant to be ‘democratic’ and functional by design: simple, robust, and easily affordable to all.
We believe relaxing in a chair shouldn’t be taxing, and have taken the ‘functional’ ideal behind Scandinavian design a step further. Transform your humble office chair into the stylish apparatus of your own health liberation by having a go at these simple chair-based exercises:
Desk Chair Shrugs
Enjoy your chair in moderation
Since the worst statistics cited above relate to prolonged periods of sitting, you can also avoid the worst health consequences by breaking up your chair time. It’s also recommended that you exercise for a minimum of 2.5 hours each week.
Here are a few suggestions you might want to try:
- Stand up on your morning train or bus commute
- Change your attitude towards walking up escalators: it’s a welcome opportunity to boost your metabolism
- Take regular drink breaks in the office. (Needing to visit the toilet more frequently is an added exercise bonus)
- Move informal meetings to off-site locations
- Introduce regular ‘team stretching’ breaks to your office
- Set reminders to get up and move about every 40 minutes
- At home, move around during advert breaks when watching TV