You might not smoke, or at least, have given up on it years ago. Eating healthy food has become mainstream now and you finally became an (active) member of the local gym. A decade ago, you would probably be considered something close to a fanatic; while recent studies indicate it might just not be enough after all. Clever people have come to the conclusion that the human body just is not into sitting. Using your body positively impacts several basic physical parameters such as blood circulation, pressure and sugar levels. This to such a degree that moving can actually be considered as an essential body function; exactly the same as what the heart or the kidneys do. Sitting just drastically lowers the intensity of this function resulting in scary stuff. And we do not like scary stuff.

A brief but pretty scary article to get you started:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-active-times/sitting-is-the-new-smokin_b_5890006.html

So, how do we go about getting our body functions back in a healthy shape … Breaks It is all about routine. Many programmers and other IT professionals out there always try to get “in the zone”: slipping into several hours of a hyper-focused mind-pc bonding to get stuff done. I agree, it is one of the best ways to get stuff done. But if you know that during that time, you are actually harming yourself the same way as if you were smoking cigarettes, would you be open to adopt a different routine? I for sure would, I like my body and I only have one of it so… Therefore, it is essential you take breaks at regular intervals. Say every hour max – preferably less. Just walk around the office, do some exercises, move, look at a tree… It actually assists your heart in circulating blood and actually helps burning those soda calories. Just take breaks. Chop up your work into smaller units to avoid slipping into those (literally) deadly 4-hour code bashing marathons!

I actually used a freeware PC app for this; EyeLeo. You can download it from http://eyeleo.com

Fun breaks

Ok, we have our breaks; but can we make these a bit more ... physical? One idea could be to get some fun equipment, such as a ping pong table. Most would probably argue that there is no space, it is noisy, and who plays ping pong anyway? Well, it is loads of fun, you can do it in a separate room and there are cheap ways to convert your existing tables into a ping pong table (given you are not keen on adhering to the international ping pong table measurements.)

Maybe this site (http://www.tabletennisspot.com/various-table-tennis-conversion-tops-in-the-market/) can give you some idea of the possibilities.

It’s all in the chair

So, is there a way to actually increase your rate of movement and be able to slip into “the zone” without sacrificing your body? YES! Since this is actually not something new, several companies have been designing and selling office furniture that supports a more “muscular” way of “sitting”. I have been able to visit a place where such chairs and tables were set up. These were installed in a small meeting room. There were

  • Regular barstool-type chairs
  • Cycle chairs
  • Barstool type chairs with moving seat post (I’ll come back on this later)
  • Balance board.

So, the idea is: standing is far better than sitting. Indeed, you are actually using the muscles in your legs while standing whereas in a sitting position you just completely shut down. The balance board adds a bit more effort to that, since you will need to keep yourself balanced and thus use muscle. For those who still want to sit; pull up a high chair. Not enough? Try the “wobbly” chair – urges you to use muscle to keep a straight back. Or you could go for a cycling chair; by the end of the year, you might just be in shape without really knowing!

The full meeting room setup. High tables and various chairs.
 

A close-up of the balance board. One of the favorites.
 

Another look at the setup. Head to head cycling. You can also see the balance seat – the base of the seat post somewhat moves like a joystick requiring your back muscles to compensate. It really makes you sit straight up!
 

The cycle seat. Maybe the most appealing but don’t be mistaken: it really is cycling!
 

After talking to the people that have been using this equipment for a while now, I can already say this:

  • The “wobbly” chair is quite popular. Especially because you always have a straight back when sitting on it. So for people that need to strengthen their back muscles, this is an awesome instrument.
  • The balance board is perfect to keep those leg muscles working, whilst not really being distracted all the time
  • The bike chairs are fun, but maybe a bit impractical when doing the heavy thinking. All though they are a welcome variation especially for a cycling fan like me.
  • The entire concept – high tables with fitting chairs – seems to have a positive impact on meeting effectiveness. Indeed, instead of sinking into comfy executive chairs sipping that coffee, people tend to remain active and be more participative resulting in shorter, more productive meetings.
  • Pricing is below 1000 euro. The bikes are around 800 euro. Not too cheap, but if it helps preventing colon cancer, seems like a good idea to me.

Now, it is not the intention, nor is it even comfortable or possible to spend the entire working day on (one of) these seats. You could, but I guess it is more of a way to spend parts of your day in a non-static sitting position.

Concluding

There are many ways to activate your body – whether it is just taking a walk around the office, organizing a ping pong tournament or even cycling all day. There is no one solution to the problem rather many small changes that can be made to result in an overall more active lifestyle resulting in a longer life.