Active Sitting - How to Do It Properly (and its Benefits)
The sitting disease, as the scientific community calls it, can lead to a boatload of health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, osteoporosis, and even early death. It’s so bad that not even adequate exercise on its own cannot fully negate its negative effects according to recent studies.
This is where active sitting can be beneficial. It lets you be stationary and active at the same time.
What Is Active Sitting?
Also known as dynamic sitting, active sitting occurs when you’re actively engaging some of your muscles while sitting. There are two main ways to do this:
- Maintain a position that requires more muscle activity than standard sitting
- Use a chair that promotes movement
What Are the Benefits of Active Sitting?
The health benefits of active sitting varies depending on what type you’re doing. Apart from countering the ill effects of static sitting, active sitting has the following benefits.
- Increased core strength
- Better posture
- More calories burned
- Back pain prevention
- Improved blood circulation
- Reduced muscle tension
- Revitalized mind and body
Can Active Sitting Affect My Productivity?
Generally speaking, with active sitting you’ll notice an initial dip in productivity as you get used to making small movements in your body as you work. For the most part, your productivity will usually go back to normal or get even better once you get used to active sitting.
If you’re worried about your work performance, choose a different type of active sitting to engage in depending on what you’re doing at the moment. For example, when you need to focus, assume an active posture that involves less movements (like standing or squatting). For more menial tasks like answering the email or chatting with colleagues on Zoom, dial it up with more physical active sitting options.
What Are the Most Common Ways to Actively Sit?
Here are the most popular active sitting options that you can try to stay fit in the office.
The first type of active sitting doesn’t require any specialized sitting apparatus. All you need is to do is stand with your feet hip width apart, lower your body down, and squat.Squatting is popular in many parts of the world where people assume this posture for all types of activities, from eating, hanging out, to using the lavatory.
A recent USC study found immense benefits in squatting vs normal sitting for our health. The posture elicits up to 8x the amount of muscle activity compared to normal sitting, and due to this seems to offset a lot of the health problems that come with inactivity for long periods of time.
Balance Ball Chairs
A balance ball chair is basically a big yoga ball that can be used for sitting. Some come with casters for mobility,backrests for support, and a stand for stability.
It will strengthen the core and leg muscles, improve blood circulation, increase energy expenditure, and help you stay more focused while working.
The balance ball chair should only be used in 20 to 30 minute bursts to prevent fatigue and poor posture over time. It should be used alternatingly with an ergonomic chair (What's That?) for best results.
This means that when buying a balance ball chair, you should also consider if you have enough office space to store it when not in use.
Just as its name suggests, wobble stools encourage active sitting by promoting movement with an unstable seat or base. Just like balance ball chairs, there are wobble stools that have a small backrest to help you stay upright and a wheeled base for mobility.
Wobble stools will make you work your core and help you stay alert while working. Still, it shouldn’t be used for long periods of time since it offers little to no upper body support.
The best wobble chairs can rotate 360° and will try to knock you off-center in various directions. There are also newer models that add bouncing to the game.
Kneeling chairs were first introduced in 1979 by Norwegian designers Hans Christian Mengshoel and Peter Opsvik. It sports an angled seat that shifts your body forward and shin rests that ease back pressure.
Compared to standard chairs which put the trunk and thighs at a 90° angle, kneeling chairs encourage a 110° trunk/thigh angle. This position opens up the body, leading to improved digestion and blood circulation.
The forward tilted seat encourages good spinal alignment and significantly reduces spinal compression and lower back pressure. The kneeling chair also works your midsection.
Though it isn’t painful to the knees unlike common misconception, it can still restrict blood flow to your lower extremities when used for long periods of time.
You can either go for a stationary kneeling chair or a rocking kneeling chair which promotes more movement.
Saddle chairs promote the same forward-angled trunk and downwards-facing thighs as kneeling chairs. Known as a declined sitting position, this type of sitting has been shown to reduce lower back fatigue. It also puts some of the body weight to the stronger thigh muscles, making it easier to maintain proper posture while working.
Unlike the active sitting chairs mentioned so far, saddle chairs are suitable for prolonged sitting. Aside from the general benefits of active sitting chairs, it also boosts productivity and improves balance, eye to hand coordination, and lower limb muscle tone.
If you go for a saddle chair with a divided seat, you get even more health benefits. This includes healthy blood circulation in the sitting area and improved fertility and sexual health in men.