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How much sitting is healthy?

The most important statements from the interview with Dr. Dieter Breithecker:

  • (Back) pain is an "early warning system" - it shows that something is wrong and warns you to take action.
  • Children can not sit still for 3 minutes, adults at most 20.
  • Autonomous (unconscious, self-organized) movements (when speaking, sleeping, sitting, etc.) must not be restricted.
  • Being lazy is natural and was energetically useful in the past - today it is only temporarily useful.
  • When it comes to sitting, too, the dose makes the poison. And the quality of the sitting.
  • Passive-static sitting makes you ill: diabetes, depression, arthrosis, cancer, dementia, sciatica...
  • Inactivity is the central risk factor.
  • We must succeed in integrating exercise into everyday life.
  • We should sit no more than six hours a day, and the rest of the time more standing and walking.
  • When we sit, we should use quality seating features.
  • High-quality seat functions allow spontaneous changes of position as required.
  • Dynamic sitting is more than the movement offered by a synchronous mechanism.
  • What is important when sitting is a free-flowing three-dimensional seat surface function that allows variable sitting postures in all directions.
  • The Aeris Swopper is more suitable than any office chair that only has a synchronous mechanism.
  • There is no reason why the Aeris Swopper should only be used as a second chair. On the contrary, the Aeris 3D function guarantees the important, autonomous micro and macro movements "from the inside out". This keeps us physically and mentally more alert.

Sit till the doctor comes?

One google - and you have the right answer to almost any question. The internet seems to know everything - but of course there are also numerous rumours circulating on the net. Many people who are interested in healthy active sitting come across one again and again: that the Swopper 3D active chair from Aeris is great, makes a lot of movement possible and is noticeably good for the back - but that it is only suitable as a "second chair" and not for longer periods of sitting.

In practice, exactly the opposite is lived. A survey conducted by Aeris in 2012 among 1,207 Aeris Swopper owners also confirms this. 65 percent stated that they predominantly sit on the Aeris Swopper and do not use any other office chair at the same time. In fact, all anyone needs to do is follow their gut to know how long they want to "swoop". Every movement counts. If it does you good, you don't need to stop it after two or four hours.

Nevertheless, we at Aeris wanted to ask an expert once again about the relationship between sitting for long periods and the Aeris Swopper, and how unhealthy rigid sitting really is. Dr. Dieter Breithecker, movement scientist and chairman of the board of directors of the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Haltungs- und Bewegungsförderung e.V. (Federal Association for the Promotion of Posture and Movement) in Wiesbaden (BAG) was available to answer our questions.

Aeris: Dear Dr. Breithecker, 80 percent of our waking hours are currently dominated by sitting. Everyone does it - always, everywhere and quite automatically. Most of the time, no one thinks about it - until something happens. Until back pain and tension become so massive that you are forced to do something about it. Sitting until the doctor comes - does it have to be like that or can you do something to prevent it?

Dr. Breithecker: Per se, it is first of all an advantage for us if the back sends pain signals. Because this makes us noticeably aware that we have to act. Of course, it would be better if we didn't let it get that far in the first place. From a developmental physiological point of view, we are not made to remain in one and the same position for long periods of time. Regular changes of position and varied movement - not necessarily sport and fitness - are indispensable for the maintenance of our genetic make-up, i.e. for the quality of all our physical and mental functions acquired during our developmental history. The reason: every muscle activity triggers complex mechanisms of action in our biological system. In addition to an increase in blood flow, above all a variety of molecular messengers are released (enzymes, hormones and proteins), which positively influence our metabolic functions.

Aeris: At what point does "lack of movement" begin? At night the body is also at rest.

Dr. Breithecker: That depends on a variety of factors, such as age or the respective supply requirements of our biological functions. Pre-school and primary school children, for example, cannot sit still for three minutes on average due to their highly sensitive maturation processes. Adults need a significant change of position at the latest after about 20 minutes of a sedentary activity. If we hold an engaged lecture, this is accompanied by spontaneous movements depending on mental or emotional requirements. These autonomous movements are mostly unconscious to us, because they are self-organized (from within us) to maintain a physical and mental well-being. They have nothing to do with sports or physical fitness. Even when we sleep, we change our body position around 40 to 60 times. A healthy life consists of movement. It is the adequate answer to a physical and mental supply need. Standstill means undersupply - and ultimately death.

You can find this out very quickly yourself with a simple exercise. To do this, you stand up in a relaxed position. If you then close your eyes, you can feel it: you are always swinging autonomously, i.e. not controlled by will, around your body's perpendicular. The same is true when we sit relaxed in the theatre or at a concert. After a few minutes we start to cross one leg over the other and then switch again, we slide back and forth ... If these self-organized processes are restricted, physical and mental degradation occurs.

Aeris: How could it come about that man today lives in a world that is so strongly characterized by sitting that he almost permanently harms himself?

Dr. Breithecker: Our everyday activities have changed and so have the rooms. Study and work rooms are usually furnished with chairs and then people live out what these furnishings reflect: He sits and takes it easy. This is in accordance with his nature, because he has been trained by evolution to be economical with energy consumption until hunger drives him again to physically strenuous hunting. However, since we no longer need to hunt for survival these days, we lack these physical demands and sitting all day becomes a looming threat to our physical and mental functions. Sitting may be heavily branded today by headlines such as "Sitting is the new smoking" or "Sitting makes you stupid", but it's the same as always: the dose makes the poison, i.e. the duration of sitting or even the quality of the sitting function.

Aeris: Are these findings new?

Dr. Breithecker: The findings have expanded in recent years based on the results of studies, especially with regard to the extent to which continuous sitting affects our health and the quality of our sitting behavior. Whereas years ago the topic focused almost exclusively on the avoidance of back problems through orthopaedic-biomechanical ideal sitting behaviour, today the findings and recommendations go far beyond this. They are oriented towards the whole person as a psycho-somatic unit. Passive-static sitting behaviour has negative and pathogenic effects on all physical and mental functions and is responsible, among other things, for lipometabolic disorders (including diabetes II), depression, dementia and even certain cancers.

Aeris: So is sitting really one of the biggest health risks of modern times?

Dr. Breithecker: With reservation, yes. But as already mentioned, the duration and the way we sit plays a significant role. The central risk factor is inactivity. We must succeed in integrating movement into our daily routine. Therefore, we should limit sitting time - spread over the day - to a maximum of six hours, avoiding static-passive sitting in the long term. The rest of our awake time we should rather stand or move more in the room.

Aeris: The longest sitting times are in the office. Up to 80 % of the day an office worker is "at risk" by sitting. The office chair industry is increasingly reacting to this. With various concepts for "dynamic sitting". What do you think is important here?

Dr. Breithecker: Basically, current findings call for more movement to be integrated into everyday life. In detail, this means qualitatively that we need improved sitting functions that allow spontaneous sitting-dynamic changes of position, and quantitatively that we significantly reduce sitting time in favour of standing and moving around the room.

The advertising of "dynamic seating" has become very inflationary in the meantime and has thus been watered down. Even a normal synchronous mechanism is already being advertised with this slogan. Dynamic sitting, however, requires more and should allow an increased variation of postural dynamic changes while sitting. The goal should be autonomous, complex sitting behaviour. However, complex and thus physiological sitting behaviors cannot be recommended or taught! You must be able to organise yourself spontaneously and intuitively on the basis of individual needs in the form of micro and macro movements. From the inside out. Special chair functions are required to enable complex sitting behaviour. The linchpin for this is a free-flowing, three-dimensional (3D) seat function that is detached from the synchronous mechanism and enables variable seating variations in the three dimensions of the room.

Aeris: The Aeris chairs with 3D technology - Swopper, Swoppster and 3Dee - not only offer the most movement, which studies show - but also the most natural. And that's because of the great hip mobility, which is the closest thing to a person's natural movement pattern. Aeris chairs adapt to people, not the other way around. They accommodate spontaneous and intuitive autonomous posture changes and do not hinder them, but rather challenge and encourage them. This is what is unique about them and for this they are recognised, awarded and recommended worldwide.

Sometimes it is claimed that you can only sit for a maximum of two hours a day, so the Aeris Swopper should at most be seen as a second chair and a conventional office chair is absolutely necessary as the main chair. Is there any ergonomic justification for this?

Dr. Breithecker: As already mentioned, it is the dose that is decisive - in other words, the duration of the sitting. And of course it is the individual needs that should be in the foreground. Basically, sitting for hours - even with the best seating functions - is not "species-appropriate" and should, as mentioned, be interrupted more often. Why it can therefore be claimed that the Aeris Swopper should only be used as a second chair is beyond me, especially as it can also be used with a backrest - for those who feel better as a result.

The Aeris Swopper is definitely more suitable than any office chair that only has a synchronous mechanism. Sitting with Aeris' special 3D function and the resulting "unlocked" pelvis in particular guarantees both variable micro and macro movements. This in turn allows rhythmic changes in tension and relaxation of the physiological structures involved in the sitting posture. This unconscious and self-organized sitting behavior triggers a complex interaction between the sensory (proprioceptive), neural and muscular systems. This keeps us physically and mentally more alert (awake).

In order to autonomously organize the physiological posture while sitting - analogous to free standing - it is essential to maintain these control cycles, which we perform automatically and involuntarily many times per second. This is also the reason why the BAG awarded the Aeris concept of 3D technology in 2013 as "particularly moving".