Join the movement!
People often assume that motivation for going chair free is driven solely out of a fear of chairs. It is true that prolonged sitting has negative consequences for long-term health. I do count among the benefits of chair free that I am reducing my risk of certain diseases, illness, and chronic conditions. But a reduction in risk is not something that we feel or experience in a tangible way and therefore not necessarily that motivating. I’m more motivated to avoid chairs by the very tangible benefits I experience from being free of them.
Here are the top benefits I’ve experienced from my chair free project.
1. Increased energy
Think of a chair as a giant energy sucking mechanism. There is nothing energizing about being a chair. A chair essentially allows your body to shut down and stop the processes that provide us energy. It’s not surprising then that being out a chair makes me feel more energized. I very rarely experience that afternoon slump that used to be a daily occurrence for me. Mornings are easier, too, when I start out eating breakfast on my feet and going for a stroll on my treadmill desk.
2. Feeling more alert
Whether I’m working, doing a personal project, playing a game with my kids, or even eating, I feel more alert compared to doing those activities while in a chair. Alertness is a great feeling. I feel aware of what’s around me and focused on what I’m doing. Again, compared to being in a chair, my body is engaged when standing, walking, perching, or siting on the floor. When the body is engaged, the mind is more likely to be as well.
3. Greater flexibility
Sitting in a chair can have terrible effects on flexibility. Your spine does not need to move. Your hips are constricted. You don’t need to engage your muscles. Getting out of chairs has helped me to fight back against the inflexibility setting into my muscles and joints. When I sit on the floor, I tend to stretch my legs and my spine. It is a natural reaction for me for to stretch. I’ve tried to improve my squatting as well. When I first started going chair free, I could not get my heels on the ground because of inflexibility in my Achilles and calves. The more I try to squat though, the more that flexibility has increased. It’s wonderful to not feel stiff all the time from long hours in a chair. Ultimately this flexibility could mean that I live a long and healthy life. Research has shown that the number of limbs a person needs to get off the ground is related to their longevity!
4. Less back pain
Along the same lines as increased flexibility, I also experience less back pain now than when I regularly used chairs. Do not be fooled by even those fancy office chairs! Chairs typically wreak havoc on your back and place pressure on your spine and pelvic floor that can lead to pain. I have never suffered from serious back pain, but I did experience small bouts of it and general achiness and stiffness that is so common among adults. Since leaving chairs behind though, even those small bouts are few and far between.
5. Improved mood
I used to work in a stressful profession where I sat all day. I often found myself tense, easy to anger, or simply feeling lousy. Those feelings would follow me home and sometimes carry over to my time with my family. My experience is backed by scientific research showing that sitting can send “sad signals” to your brain. When I started standing and walking at work, I was surprised how my mood was more positive and consistent than in years. There is plenty of research showing the benefits of exercise on boosting mood. You don’t have to run a marathon to see that improvement either. Short bursts of activity and just changing positions can have positive benefits.
6. Better able to handle stress
Similarly, I found myself better equipped to deal with stressful situations. Nothing helps keep your stress up quite as much as stewing about a situation while sitting a chair. Sitting in a chair also can make you feel powerless. Standing upright with proper posture, however, has been shown to trigger feelings of empowerment. You can change the chemistry of your brain in just a few minutes by being upright. It is amazing how much easier I find it to navigate stressful situations when I’m on my feet, pacing, walking, or even just standing.
8. More productive
Many of the benefits discussed above feed into being more productive each day. Feeling more alert, happy, and empowered allows me to tackle whatever is on my plate. The other way that chair free helps me to be more productive is by keeping me out of a “chair rut.” You know that feeling when your energy is drained and you know that you should get up and do something else – whether at work, the dinner table, or on the couch – but you just are not motivated to move. It’s hard to fight back against that feeling! Now, however, when I’m already on my feet, it’s easy to jump to the next task or activity. My days feel more productive and fulfilling.
Reflecting on all of these benefits, I again am amazed by the prevalence of chairs in our lives. Once you make the switch, you’re not likely to go back!