Homo Sapiens have inhabited the earth for approximately 50,000 years. However modern chairs only came into existence some 5000 or so years ago, during ancient Egyptian times, when they reserved for wealthier individuals. Clearly we managed without seating for a significant amount of time before the invention of the chair. But, what did we do before chairs? How did we ever get comfortable?
Before chairs, prehistoric humans would often lean on trees, rocks and walls when they needed to rest. As hunter-gatherers we were considerably more active than we are today, but we did still enjoy a good rest. More often than not, we would take to the floor and stretch out in various positions ranging from lying down, kneeling and sitting to squatting. These archetypal postures were, you might be surprised to learn, perfectly comfortable.
With the rise of the chair, however, came a multitude of ailments. Sitting in modern chairs, it has been suggested, is an entirely unnatural position for the human body and doing so for extended periods can have serious health implications. A report in The Daily Mail described one study by Professor Marc Hamilton of The University of Missouri, in which it was found that excessive sitting can be as bad for human health as smoking. Sitting for hours and hours each day is associated with a marked increase in the risk of becoming obese along with the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and DVT. Another study, conducted by The American College of Sports Medicine, also found that time spent sitting, independent of how much time the individual spent exercising or how healthy their diet was, correlated directly with an increased risk of mortality from all causes.
This alarming information is suggestive of the fact that we need to change the way we currently choose to rest our bodies. Whilst chairs may be unavoidable, largely due to the social implications of fully rejecting them (who wants to be the awkward person standing at their desk at work or the oddball sitting on the floor of the local cafe drinking tea with their friends?), there are many things we can do to limit chair time and to adopt more natural positions to support our bodies and boost our overall health.
KEEP MOVING Whilst it may be impossible to read on the go, there’s no reason you need to sit for every meal and snack.
WALKABOUT If you work in an office, take a break at least once per hour to go for a little walk. Maybe even do a few jumping jacks in the toilet…
SQUAT IT OUT Try to spend more time on the floor at home. Squatting, in particular, is incredibly good for us and our muscles. But, not just any old squatting. Check out this article for more information on how to squat properly.
STAY UPRIGHT Avoid reclining chairs/sofas.
POSTURE PERFECT Most importantly, wherever you choose to sit, be mindful of your posture. Don’t slump forward and always keep a straight back, chin up and strong shoulders.