Sitting at my studio desk I often notice myself hunching my shoulders over my laptop, moving further and further forward with concentration, to only realise an hour later that I am straining my back and shoulders. We all do it when sitting for a long period of time and it is almost inevitable to suffer from back pain when working from a chair all day every day. If we don’t set our mind to train our bodies to sit up properly it can have long term health issues.
This is an issue which I struggle with a lot working at my desk in the studio. I am quite an energetic person who enjoys sports and my gym sessions in the mornings so as a result I struggle to sit still for much longer than an hour. I’m a nightmare to watch a film with and would much prefer to stand when I work. So in turn this issue was one I had been pondering over a period of time and when our latest assignment was revealed as a stool project I jumped on the chance to test the concept out through design.
In researching the effects of sitting for long periods of time there are obvious problems and not so obvious issues. Sitting for prolonged periods inevitably puts strain on your spine and shoulders and can have an effect on the neck as a result. However sitting can also lead to ‘mushy abs’ which basically outlines the idea that sitting does not work your abs the same way standing does so over time the abdominal muscles can lose their density and strength. Furthermore siting in a ‘C slump’ shape can cause our ribs to push on internal organs leading to long term health problems.
All of these facts sound extreme but are very common amongst experienced office workers and desk employees. In experimenting with different bodily angles and shapes we found it difficult to come up with the ‘perfect’ sitting angle. Every angle seemed to help one body part but still hinder another. As human beings our bodies are simply not designed to be sitting still all day, we are designed to hunt and gather.
At this point I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a perfect sitting angle. If you sit for a long period of time then no matter what position you arrange yourself in there will always be some sort of after affect. Leading to the conclusion there is no such thing as a comfortable chair. Taking this concept forward in to a chair design we decided to begin to design a chair which is particularly uncomfortable and forces you to sit in an extreme ‘C slump’. At first glance it defeats the purpose of tackling the issue of prolonged back pain and other symptoms caused by sitting but instead it is there to raise awareness of the issue. By forcing the user into this ‘C slump’ right from the moment they sit down to allow the user to recognise how uncomfortable and damaging it can be to the body. This in turn combats the real issue of training the brain to recognise the detrimental effects of the slouch and make a conscious decision to sit straight.