What you should know about dynamic sitting

Since the early noughties, various office equipment companies attempted to curb the negative sedentary effects of office related work by improving the design of the standard office chair. The result was a central tilting point. This mechanism is what allows us to refer to dynamic or active seating. Here's what you need to know about this phenomenon:

In chairs with a central tilting point, the backrest and sitting pan are fixed to the desired settings but the tilting point pivots according to your movement. According to the HAG In-Balance principle, it's easy to tilt backwards or forwards using your legs. This stimulates muscle activation of the legs and increases ankle movement. Two factors that are often lacking while using a traditional chair. A result of the added muscle activity is higher energy expenditure and less sedentary time.

When seated in a traditional office chair, we often sit hunched over or try to get closer to our screens. This narrows our hip angles, which has tightening of the hip flexor muscles and decrease in blood flow to the legs as a result. The dynamic tilting motion of these chairs counters these effects by opening the angles at the hips.

Many other improvements have also been suggested since then and are actively in use today. For example, instead of a forwards and backwards motion, a sideways pivot point has also been designed. This has been noted on the SpinaliS chairs and propose added value by reducing a spinal pivot point (on one level of the vertebrae) and mimics the effects of sitting on a balance ball, with slightly more postural support. However, most research has been conducted on the effects on office workers using central forward and backward pivot points.

This does seem like clear-cut reasoning on a theoretical level. But it's always a different story when implementing it into practice. A study evaluating the impact that dynamic sitting had on muscle activation found lower leg muscles were activated more often than thigh muscles. The lower leg muscles are much smaller and will also have a smaller effect on overall energy expenditure, implying that sedentary behaviour is not altered that much. The conclusion was that dynamic seating did not have a significant enough effect on muscle activation when compared to a static chair. There-fore the authors recommended adding regular intervals of activity throughout the day to mitigate the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Another study evaluated physiological and cognitive changes associated with dynamic sitting versus a traditional office chair. They noted an increase in calf circumference at the 2nd and 3rd hour of working in both dynamic and traditional seating, however the change from participants using dynamic seating was less. With regards to cognitive functioning, participants using a traditional office chair had attention-errors while no changes were observed while using dynamic seating. Once again, the evidence proved moderately in favour of dynamic seating and more research is still required.

Many large corporations and businesses have incorporated dynamic seating into their facilities. It's a great addition to a growing list of office equipment that stimulates movement. Having the knowledge to identify it and use it at the office can present great benefit to your working experience. However, granted the price to benefit ratio, this would not be my first purchase for a home office. There are many more budget-friendly options to add movement to your day that will achieve much greater health benefits.

If you're looking for a top of the line ergonomic chair that will last you many years, this is certainly a feature to look out for.

It might be a challenge getting used to the pivoting mechanism. It allows much more movement than a traditional office chair. Keep in mind, this is to stimulate movement so it's normal to be moving more in your chair. If you feel it's getting too much, it's better to implement it in shorter bursts throughout the day. Similar to a standing desk, add 20 minutes per hour.

If you would like more information on chairs that allow dynamic or active sitting, leave a comment or check-out out our online workstation assessment called Work-it-Out. This appointment is also particularly useful if you're having trouble implementing dynamic sitting into your work day.

If you want more tips on being healthy and motivated at work, follow our Instagram page @sit_stand.