By now you’ve heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” and you’ve probably seen more than a few people using stand-up desks in an effort to improve their posture and overall health. All of that is great, but the reality is that for many of us, standing up for a full workday isn’t practical. Long hours in a standing position can also lead to lower back pain and even leg or foot issues.
So is there a compromise between standing up and sitting like a lump in your office chair? There is, and it’s called backless seating. The name is self-explanatory, and the idea is to stop letting the back of your office chair do the work your core muscles are supposed to be doing. Perhaps you’ve seen one or more adventurous co-workers using an exercise ball as a chair … same idea here, but with a lower risk of falling off (exercise balls have fallen out of favor as seating options in any event as experts have determined that they may actually place additional pressure on the spine).
Probably the most common form factor for backless seating is the saddle stool. Picture the thing your doctor or dentist scoots around on sometimes and you’ll get the idea. Most have wheels, some don’t, and many will adjust from a standard desk height to more of a barstool elevation.
There are a number of benefits: the saddle shape of the seat is designed to encourage a forward tilt in your pelvis, which in turn maintains the natural lumbar curve of the spine. The inability to lean back keeps your core engaged, and the wheels on most stools keep you from slouching forward, because if you lean too far you’ll suddenly find you don’t have a stool beneath you anymore.
Like stand-up desks, you’ll probably find you don’t want to go backless for eight hours at a time, especially right off the bat. Your muscles will need time to adjust, and you may find spending a full day on a backless seat uncomfortable.
In any event, the ideal solution is a combination of positions: sitting, standing and perhaps most importantly, moving around the office on a regular basis, all have a place in your workday and should be used in combination. For the sitting portions of your day, though, consider going backless.