Is Your Chair Killing You?

The following article was created by one of the world’s top wellness experts and award winning author, Kent Burden.


You Need a Dynamic Work Place

Let’s be honest, most work places aren’t very dynamic. In fact many are downright sedate. I’m not talking about the relative excitement level at your work place or whether what the business does is interesting or fun. I’m talking about how physically active your work is. If you or your employees spend the majority of your day sitting at your desk working at a computer, your work place is sedentary, but if you find yourself up and moving most of the day your work place is dynamic. So why exactly do you need a dynamic workplace?

Worth a read: The Office Chair Seating Guide

New research shows

Sitting for extended periods of time is as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. And exercising for 30-60 minutes a day isn’t enough to undo the damage from extended periods of sitting. If you or your employees are sitting at their desks all day they are at significantly higher risk of developing cardio vascular disease, diabetes, becoming obese or suffering from back pain. And worse, new research shows that working out before or after work isn’t going to lower that risk.

  • Healthcare costs are rising on average 9% a year.
  • Of all the money spent on healthcare in the U.S. 17% is spent on cardiovascular disease. Most cardio vascular disease is preventable.
  • One in every five healthcare dollars is spent on caring for someone with diabetes. 95% of all diabetes cases could be prevented or controlled by activity and diet alone.
  • $147 billion per year is spent on direct medical expenses for obesity, which is 9% of all medical spending.
  • Back pain is the number two reason for sick days taken each year in America. Much of the back pain experienced by American workers can be traced back to extended periods of sitting in a chair.
  • The good news is that the fix is actually a simple one and can make you and your employees healthier, more productive and more creative.
  • Take control of your healthcare and lost productivity costs

Just how much money is spent on health care? A small rural county in Wisconsin with 600 employees has a $9 million annual budget. Last year more than $1 million of that budget was spent on healthcare costs for their employees. The county’s employee wellness program participation rate was less than 5%.

The Department of Health and Human Performance at a prestigious university estimated that this rural county could have saved more than $500,000 each year if they could just get 50% of their employees involved in an effective wellness program.

How do you make that happen? Actually there are a number of different ways; one is to simply create ways to be more active during the day. The first step in this process is to re-think how you have your office set up. Most of us have our desk and office set up so everything is pretty handy. The stapler is in easy reach, the file cabinet is close enough that you don’t have to get out of your chair to get those files. The printer is right there on your desktop. It’s all very convenient. But convenience isn’t necessarily a good thing. The more we get up and move the healthier and happier we’re going to be because all that activity is going to increase your metabolism, engage both stabilizer and mover muscles, burn fat and sugars in the bloodstream and pump up blood flow to the brain. By arranging your work station in such a way that you are forced to be more active, changing your habits will become more a matter of necessity than conscious, effortful change. At the office, moving things you use on a regular basis, like staplers, calculators and paper clips to places that force you to get out of your seat to get them is an easy way to increase your activity. Putting file cabinets and the printer on the other side of the room is also helpful. So is switching from a large water bottle you keep on your desk to a small cup that you have to fill at the water cooler across the office when you get thirsty. Spend a few minutes looking at your workspace and do some rearranging that will help you get more movement into your day and a little less sitting. And remember, decrease your fuel efficiency; every little bit helps. Here’s a list of things you can do at the office to be more active.

  • Park in the furthest parking space from your destination
  • Place regularly used items in an area where you will have to get up to get them
  • Always stand and pace when on the phone
  • Fidget when sitting for more than twenty minutes (shake your legs, strum your fingers, twirl a pencil or pen)
  • Create a stand up desk by placing a wide, sturdy cardboard box on top of your desk and place the keyboard and mouse on it. Use it every half hour.
  • Have walking meetings with fellow workers
  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Drink small cups of water from the water cooler across the office so you’ll have to make frequent trips
  • Use the bathroom that is furthest from your desk
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • If your destination is less than a mile away, walk or ride your bike
  • Make every coffee break a walking break
  • Stand up and walk around the office every thirty minutes
  • Deliver documents and messages to coworkers at their desk instead of calling or emailing
  • Leave your lunch in the car or someplace you have to walk to get to it

Another way is to actually bring your workout to your work. By doing some conventional exercises in an unconventional way you can go a long way towards improving energy levels, overall health and productivity. Instead of a typical extended workout doing 1-5 minute mini workouts every hour is a great way to be more active every day. The following are some mini workouts that can be done right at your desk. All you need is some rubber tubing and an open mind.

Concentration Curls (single hand)

While seated in a chair with both feet firmly planted on the ground, secure the center of the band around the right foot and hold both handles in the right hand, resting the right elbow on the right knee. Wrap roll the band around the right hand while still holding the handles until the band is tight when the hand is resting at knee level. Curl the right arm towards the right shoulder. Return to original position. Repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides.


Concentration Curls (Single Hand) demo:



Bent Over Row (Two-Handed)

Stand on the center of the band with your feet hip distance apart. Holding one handle in each hand, bend your knees slightly and lean forward at the waist, until your upper torso is parallel to the ground. Look directly down at the floor keeping the neck in line with the rest of the back. Your elbow should be bent and angled to the sides and the band should be taught when the fists are in line with the knees. Bring arms back towards your chest, sweeping the elbows out and back until your hands are even with your upper chest. The motion should be similar to the action of rowing a boat with two oars. Repeat for 1 minute.


Bent Over Rows (Two-Handed) demo:



Curtsy Squat: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Step back and to the left with your right foot as far as you can safely, crossing your right leg behind your left leg as you bend both knees  lowering your body down towards the ground. Return to original position and repeat for 30 seconds then switch sides.


Curtsy Squat demo:



Here are some videos of other exercises to do at your desk:


For more information on this subject, please check out my book Is Your Chair Killing You?




and The Office Workout: 75 Exercises to do at Your Desk

- US:

- UK:


Kent Burden found his way to the world of health and wellness after a college football injury left him a paraplegic at the age of 19 and confined to a wheelchair for nearly a year. During his journey through multiple surgeries, rehabilitation and eventual recovery, he discovered the benefits of yoga, Pilates and meditation. Three decades later, he is a certified master wellness coach, personal trainer, and is certified to teach 18 different fitness modalities. He has trained Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners as well as NFL and NBA champions. Recognized as one of the world’s top wellness experts he is an award winning bestselling author of 9 books. In public appearances, his conversational, engaging and entertaining style makes him a popular speaker.

He can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @KentBurden.

View our range of office chairs, including ergonomic seating, here.

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