Why is posture important for our well-being?
Our ‘core’ is the mid-sections of our body (everything apart from our legs and arms). Virtually all of our functional movements (in the 3 physical planes) are dependent upon a healthy core. To put it plainly – a weak/unhealthy core, which could result from poor posture, can lead to injury.
The core muscles are located in the stomach region and the mid-lower back. The major core muscles comprise the Transverse abdominals, Internal/External Obliques, Rectus Abdominus, Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Iliopsoas (hip flexors), and pelvic floor muscles.
What can you do to improve your posture?
Posture analysis – A great way to check your body’s alignment and general standing posture are to ask a friend to analyze you at a distance of 5 meters from the front on, from behind, and side-on. You should note any imbalances in shoulder height, your natural tilt (forwards/backward), knee alignment, and foot rotation, as these could be indicators of a postural or muscular problem.
Core strengthening – in a similar way to our heart muscle, our core muscles are working all the time by supporting our skeletal structure. They also get a lot of incidental work, for example, if you are doing any form of movement, then you are reliant on your core muscles to provide the support and functionality to complete that movement. That said, there is value in deliberately targeting your core to develop its capabilities. Exercising on unstable surfaces, like a Swiss ball, will bring your core muscles even more into play.
Sitting down – The problem with the traditional office chair is not the solid seat but more the backrest because this encourages poor posture through slouching and disengages your back core muscles. I have incorporated standing at my work station and now using The Evolution Chair to overcome the problems that a normal office chair can bring.
The Kikka Active Chair
That brings me to The Kikka Active Chair (“ball chair”) designed ten years ago by Dr. William Liebenberg. It is a bold product name but very relevant when you consider that most offices will continue to be kitted out with traditional computer chairs for the foreseeable future (therefore, using a moveable object for an office chair is quite evolutionary). Posture is an evolutionary thing when you consider how we have developed as humans and how even fashion, such as high heel shoes, can influence posture.
Effective – The instability of the ball, coupled with the free-moving base, can challenge your core and co-ordination in all planes to get an effective core workout. The lack of a back-rest means that you have to draw your shoulders back and maintain the natural ‘S’ curve of your spine to sit upright and balanced on the chair.
Slouching isn’t an option, as you will probably fall off. I love the fact that you have to balance to stay sat upright – that said, the set up of the chair doesn’t feel too unstable, so you don’t have to have a great core strength already.
Adjustable – You can alter the dimensions of the chair by inflating the ball to the desired height, or you can use the height inserts included to accommodate people over 5’8″ tall. At nearly 6’3” tall, I use the height inserts and find the chair to be comfortable with my knees at just above parallel to the floor (i.e. slightly greater than 90-degree bend, hips slightly higher than knees). The full product details with dimensions can be read here.
Quality – This is one of the highest quality Swiss balls that I have come across, and I must have used dozens at various gyms. It is a durable, non-toxic, anti-burst fabric. The wheelbase for the chair is also easy to fit (clip-in wheels) and has been very sturdy so far.
*Versatility – I love the notion of taking a 5-minute core-workout break from your computer work. It is no secret that taking regular hourly breaks from the computer screen and engaging in some physical activity will improve concentration levels and therefore productivity. The Kikka Active Ball Chair makes that easy because you can simply remove the ball from the base and use it for numerous exercises.
Correct use – to get any benefit from using The Kikka Active Ball Chair, then you have to use it correctly. Fortunately, there are lots of tips to be found online, including on how you should introduce sitting in this chair gradually into your daily routine (e.g. raising your sitting time in 5-minute increments) I will note that it is widely agreed that the key to avoiding back pain (and, it turns out, achieving healthy posture) lies in the positioning of the pelvis. We need to avoid hunching forwards or slouching when sat down, even when on The Evolutionary Chair, which should make this poor posture difficult anyway because of the lack of a backrest.
Understandably, there are going to be some people who don’t want to exercise equipment on show in their home or office! I think, however, that there is value in changing something as fundamental as the chair you sit on (for hours at a time) to gain the long-term benefits that come with improved core strength and therefore posture. The Cover-Up (mentioned above) does go some way to disguising a Swiss ball in your room!
Ultimately, I’m fully in favor of any steps we can take to make our workplaces healthier and changing our traditional seats for something that will help our posture. I will be continuing to use my Evolutionary Chair daily to keep a healthy core. The Kikka Active Chair is available at Amazon.