Your Office Chair Is Trying To Kill You

Have you ever, in the middle of a particularly stressful day at work, thought to yourself, “This job will be the death of me?” If you sit at a desk, it turns out you may be right. Over the last few years, there’s been a growing body of evidence to suggest that sitting for extended periods could be damaging to your health. Now, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has confirmed that remaining sedentary for more than six hours a day is a factor in as many as one in nine deaths in the UK, with links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Put another way, sitting down is causing up to 70,000 deaths a year – and costing the NHS £700 million annually.

So far, so terrifying, but what can you actually do to counteract the effects of being trapped at your desk from nine to five? First of all, resist the urge to get a standing desk. “The issue here is being sedentary – and standing for too long brings its own set of health complications,” says Roger Frampton, author of The Flexible Body: Move Better Anywhere and creator of the TED Talk Why Sitting Down Destroys You, which has nearly 2.5 million views. “I always say that there are more than 800 muscles and 300 joints in the human body. We’re supposed to move regularly. I used to tell my clients to do stretches at their desk, but I realise that hardly anybody manages to do that in practice. Now, I tend to recommend focusing on your work and then correcting postural issues at home.”

See below for the movement coach’s three key tips for counteracting the damage caused by sitting…

Avoid chairs outside of your nine to five, especially when you’re at home.

“If you’re sitting all day, make sure that you avoid chairs when you’re at home. Honestly, the best option is to sit on the floor, even if it’s just while you’re watching TV or eating dinner. I would actually suggest getting a dedicated mat. Firstly, it serves as a physical reminder to do your exercises if it’s just there in the corner, guilt-tripping you. Secondly, it makes you feel less weird about sitting on the floor rather than the couch. When you sit on the ground, you automatically move into a position that’s more natural for you. There are hundreds of different positions to try – but the three most notable are sitting cross-legged as you do in yoga; squatting like a child; or sitting with your legs out in front of you.”

Run through these three stretches whenever possible to reverse at least some of the damage.

“If you’re at your desk for hours and hours, you’re going to get tightness in certain muscles. First of all, your hip flexors are compressed while sitting, so balance that out at night with lots of quad stretches. Being on a chair also makes us arch our back and push our shoulders forward. To counteract that, try regularly putting your arms behind and/or over your head. Finally, as weird as it sounds, make sure to squeeze your glutes. We were never designed to sit on tissue and allowing our muscles to weaken is linked to back pain. Try doing a plank but focus on clenching your glutes rather than your stomach. You can also work on this while standing. Just push your heels against each other and squeeze your glutes. You can do this anywhere without anyone even noticing.”

Get yourself to an exercise bar at home – or visit your local outdoor gym.

“It’s worth getting a pull-up bar for your home – and not just for strength exercises. All day long at your desk, you effectively have gravity pushing on the back of your head. Even if you reach for a bar with your feet on the ground, it elongates your spine, which helps to counteract the damage caused by sitting. That said, any activity where you’re suspended the way that children are on monkey bars is great. I always post videos of myself hanging from the rails on the Tube, depending on how crowded the trains are. Otherwise, take advantage of London’s brilliant outdoor gyms, which can be found everywhere from Primrose Hill to Maida Vale.”

Follow @rogerframpton on Instagram for more movement tips.


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