Well I hate to say I told you so (total lie!), but if you are still sitting in front of your computer right now, you better read this: “Your Office Chair Is Killing You” from last week’s Business Week.
New research in the diverse fields of epidemiology, molecular biology, biomechanics, and physiology is converging toward a startling conclusion: Sitting is a public-health risk. And exercising doesn’t offset it. “People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising,” says University of Missouri microbiologist Marc Hamilton. “Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body.”
The article goes on to mention the negative impact of allowing your spine to be rounded most of the day, and the fact that even though we evolved to walking over the last million years, we are undoing years of human-body function in less that one hundred and fifty years of chair use.
The importance of keeping the “S” curve in the spine is extremely important to the health of the nervous system (this means all the nerves and muscles. Even tiny, rhythmic actions like breathing, digestion, and vision). The “S” shape keeps forces like gravity and weight from collapsing our bodies to the ground. The “S” shape works like a spring. The structure of an “S” allows forces to be temporarily applied and then released. A “C” shape to your spine, however, doesn’t have the ability to resist forces, squeezing the disks, increasing fractures in the bones, and pressing on the nerves. Ouch.
In all honesty, the chairs are not really to blame. It’s the fact that we are sitting, endlessly, in them. I tell you this because people keep asking me what is the best chair. The answer is…there isn’t a “best chair”. The damage comes from having your legs bent. If you can find a chair that allows your legs to be straight and your spine to be vertical, then maybe I’ll consider it. I’ll consider it a wall.
Why No Legs Bent? The more time you spend sitting, the tighter your hamstrings become. The tighter your hamstrings, the more they pull the lowest curve out of the spine and tuck the tailbone under.
And now, for some fun math:
Tight hamstrings = “C” curve to the spine.
“C” curve to the spine = Spine Degeneration, High Blood Pressure, and No Pelvic Floor Strength.
To check and see if your hamstrings have pulled your spine into a “C”, test yourself by bending forward to the seat of a chair, lifting your tailbone to the ceiling while keeping your legs straight (no bent knees!)
Does your spine relax in the center, with a gentle curve at the tail bone and upper back? Or, does bending forward with straight legs make your spine buck up like a camel? Camel starts with the letter “C”. Interesting. Test everyone in your office and let me know how it goes. Hey! Are you standing yet?