News and Tribune


January 31, 2013

STAWAR: Take a seat


I was once helping out at an outdoor festival and brought my own comfortable wooden folding chair to sit in because I didn’t care for the small metal chairs provided. Every time I got up to do something and came back, the same guy was sitting in my chair. I sure could have used some of that Siege Perilous stuff. 

According to environmental psychologist Sally Augustine, when people sit in a recliner and stretch out they generally feel more powerful, confident and have a higher tolerance for risk-taking. They also get less angry when provoked by others. Sitting in a confined or restricted posture, however, has the opposite effect. Maybe this is the source for the sitcom folk wisdom that suggests it is best to confront mom or dad with bad news at the end of the day when they are relaxing in their recliner, preferably with a potent cocktail in hand. 

According to the health quiz in Parade Magazine that Diane gave me last Sunday, these days chairs are actually considered to be even more dangerous to your health than cigarettes. Research by The American Cancer Society shows that sitting is a significant risk factor predicting how long you’ll live. One recent study found sitting more than six hours a day increased female mortality by 37 percent and male mortality by 17 percent. Prolonged sitting also exacerbates back pain, which afflicts 80 percent of adults, as well as neck pain, balance and flexibility. 

McSwiggen wrote, “No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Some are better than others, but all are bad.”

 He says that uncomfortable chairs can create pressure that leads to soreness, poor posture, restricted circulation, impeded respiration and intestinal dysfunction. Even comfortable chairs encourage long durations of static positions, which in turn stress the spine, weaken muscles and cause circulatory problems. 

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