The compounding effect of sitting on your body and your brain

Our Undoing The Chair Workshop is only a few weeks away, so we’re giving you an insight into some of the key components of what will be covered. 


Sitting is something that has been and always will be a part of your life. It brings a sense of relief to hit the couch after a long day and allows us to connect deeply with a friend or family in conversation without distraction. 


However, with it comes a range of side effects that are often forgotten about but easily mitigated – particularly if you sit for long periods at a time.


One of the more obvious ones is the effect sitting has on our posture, however what is less obvious is the effect this posture has on your brain.


Posture is an interesting topic to consider. It has both inherited and learned components and tends to organise itself into the most appropriate environment it is exposed to. For example, gymnasts and dancers generally have the classic long straight spine postures whilst boxers have high hunched shoulders and swimmers wide droopy ones. 

On the contrary, if you have ever watched a family together you’ll probably find they sit, stand and walk very similarly regardless of exposure – plenty of room for research there.


For today we’d like to focus on a particular, yet abundant, postural habit and how it can affect your life. 


If you find yourself in a chair for long hours, it is likely that our body will be slumped according to the shape of the chair that you are sitting on. Specifically, your shoulders and thoracic spine will be hunched, head tilted forward and rib cage tilted down. 

Try as we might, designing a chair that facilitates against this is practically impossible. We have not evolved to be sitting or standing in one spot for hours on end regardless of how fancy our furniture gets. 

The particular consideration for this position that you are likely in for long periods of the day, comes to its influence on the way you breathe.

If your spine and shoulders are rounded and hunched, it is going to be near impossible to take a maximal deep inhale. And if you do, there’s a good chance that your back muscles will pull you to be more upright. To accommodate for this position, our breathing pattern has to change, causing our breath to be more shallow and frequent, rather than long and slow. 


This leads to a change in our nervous state, as shallow frequent breathing causes a shift to sympathetic nervous states. Sympathetic nervous states are useful when it comes to exercise and moments of high stress. However, they are incredibly compromising for our health if we are exposed to them for prolonged periods of time. There is now significant evidence suggesting there is an increased health risk associated with continued exposure to sympathetic nervous states. 


As we do our best to downregulate and manage this system, through the use of pharmacology, psychology and meditation, if no consideration is drawn to the structure of your body and its prolonged positioning we could be missing a key piece to the puzzle. 


So if you are hoping to learn about how to generate long term structural change on your body, we’d highly recommend you grab a ticket to our workshop Undoing The Chair  so you can start getting more out of your body and your life.