The i2i chair -- this photo from the Steelcase online gallery shows one with an Arctic White finish -- is a lounge chair designed to foster collaboration, according to the company.

Sitting Isn't Killing You

I'm sure you've heard that sitting is killing you. It's everywhere -– stories that bring doom down on desk-bound office workers everywhere and promise a range of problems, from weight gain to diabetes and beyond. Before you toss your chair out the window for good, we wanted to share something that might make you feel a little better: Sitting isn't killing you.

Sure, sitting incorrectly, for too long, or in a poorly designed seat certainly can cause harm. Long periods of sedentary behavior are ill-advised in any form -- but just like sleeping, eating, exercising, and more, sitting must be managed in moderation. According to recent studies, it's not the office chair that is killing you; it's the excess of sitting throughout an entire day, at work and at home.

Steelcase research shows that sitting is one of a "palette of postures" necessary for optimal health and productivity in the workplace, along with standing and walking.

Movement Is Critical to Wellness
The idea behind sit, stand, walk -- Steelcase's approach to keeping workers moving and healthy -- is that sitting simply cannot be the only office posture available to workers. Research studies by Hamilton (2007), Pedersen (2009), and Stephens (2010) demonstrate that movement during the day is critical to wellness and can reduce repetitive motion injuries, arrest weight gain, foster greater concentration and engagement, and boost productivity.

Even if workers practice a sedentary lifestyle in non-work hours, Steelcase believes offering a palette of postures during the day will encourage movement that offsets sedentary habits and boosts wellness and performance.

Sometimes, sitting just makes sense. Workers entering data or word processing tend to complete such tasks more efficiently and accurately while seated. Sitting also offers a vital rest benefit, particularly for workers who must spend long periods on their feet. Steelcase provides a variety of ergonomic seating options, some of which include "Alive" seating that supports natural spinal motion and allow you to be fully supported during varied degrees of recline. In other words, selecting the appropriate chair can mitigate risk factors that can potentially occur while sitting.

Besides sitting, the other key postures include standing and walking. Standing not only offers a break from sitting, but also ensures employees stay in motion and helps offset some of the problems that can result from prolonged sitting. From meeting in a common area or utilizing height-adjusted work surfaces, there are a number of options available for employees to spend portions of the day standing. The benefits of standing during the day include additional burned calories and maintained or renewed energy levels and focus.

Walking's Key Benefits
Of the three postures, walking often seems to pose the largest challenge in the workplace. The benefits, of course, are more than positive: Walking reduces static load, increases blood flow, and improves metabolic function. To aid in the process of integrating walking in the workplace, companies can encourage walking meetings or invest in height-adjustable work surfaces equipped with low-speed treadmills. With these tools, employees are empowered to move during the day and keep working as they walk.

Sitting is an important part of the work day, but it should not be the only option. Instead, Steelcase believes in a workplace that offers a variety of postures including sitting, standing, and walking. With choice and control to select various postures, workers will be faced with a new level of accountability to move throughout the work day, as well as a tool to address physical and health issues such as obesity.

The result? Workers who feel better, are more positive about their work environment, and are more engaged with their work as a whole.

Kevin Butler is Senior Ergonomist for Steelcase of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Posted by Kevin Butler on Nov 01, 2012

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