Beware of the seat trap!

“Don’t wriggle in your chair! ”We’ve all heard that as children. A rebuke that became deeply engrained in us and hard to free ourselves from. But if the discoveries of scientist of movement and ergonomist Dr. Dieter Breithecker had been more widespread, we would perhaps not have heard this reprimand quite as often. Learn from children! He encourages us and warns us all to beware of seat traps.They merely make us feel worse.

“Children’s natural ways of moving about, jumping into puddles, mucking about with clay,climbing trees or wriggling in chairs, all have a purpose, namely to organise the qualitative pattern of their bodily development. So a child’s natural way of sitting should inspire our attempts to influence physiological seating conditions. We adults continuously misinterpret childrens’ body language, feels Dr. Dieter Breithecker, Head of Germany’s Federal Institute for Promoting Posture and Movement in Wiesbaden (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Haltungs- und Bewegungsförderung e V).

“Actually it’s all a matter of healthy restlessness. Movement is an absolute necessity for the harmonious development of body and soul. We adults can and must learn from this. People in sedentary jobs need a regular rhythmic alternationbetween tension and relaxation. This is exactly what children do when they wriggle in a chair. Natural bodily activities are crucial for both enhanced well-being and higher productivity.

Dr. Breithecker has conducted considerable research into sitting, health and well-being. It worries him that some ergonomists still think in anthropometric ways, i.e. they define the relationships  between sitting height, sitting depth and back height to correspond to some kind of average bodily dimensions. And they subsequently come up with data for use in the manufacture of seating.

“Human beings are not rigid measuring units and simply cannot be standardised. That’s why absolutely no one fits into standardised chairs. I’m working towards a holistic view of the human being, my approach is anthropological. We need “ergodynamic” solutions, seating that is adapted  to a person’s need for movement and not the other way around. An ergonomic approach must place the whole human being at the centre, not merely his bodily dimensions.

It’s not enough for a chair merely to allow the hip joints to move,” insists Dr. Dieter Breithecker and instead calls for a free-floating seating area that adapts itself automatically to the body’s natural movements.

“As I see it, office chairs with free-floating mechanics are far superior to those with simple synchronised mechanics from an anthropologicalergonomic viewpoint. Especially for people who work in offices eight hours a day,” he says.

Sitting may be individual, but it’s important for everyone to be able to move about freely. Dr. Dieter Breithecker points out that the changes in sitting position permitted and inspired by an office chair with a free-float mechanism, such as strong pelvic movements as well as vigorous foot and leg dynamics, encourage continuous blood circulation as well as a balance between muscle  relaxation and muscle tension.

“Well-balanced muscle activity stimulates the receptors in the joints, tendons and muscles, and sends corresponding messages on to the brain.This makes us feel better, makes it easier for us to concentrate and obviously increases our work capacity too.

Lotta Jonson