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Is ‘Active Sitting’ The New ‘Standing’?

‘Sitting is the new smoking’, we’ve all been told, and in response many of us have sprung to our feet – at least for part of the work day. But is standing the best solution for increasing human activity and performance at work? The results of a study on active sitting may surprise you.

Is ‘Active Sitting’ The New ‘Standing’?

Scandinavian Business Seating commissioned Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet to investigate ‘active sitting’ at work. The results of the study, which focused on a HÅG chair with a centre-tilt mechanism, may surprise you.

HÅG has long been a pioneer of ‘active sitting’ with its Balanced Movement Mechanism™. “Without even being aware of it, you move when sitting on a chair with centre-tilt,” says Bas van der Doelen, Lead Ergonomist for Scandinavian Business Seating, “which means its possible to both move and focus on your work at the same time.”

The Balanced Movement Mechanism™ was designed to ensure that the sitter is always balanced and positioned directly over the chair’s natural pivot point. When it is ‘activated’, the chair allows forward and backward leaning by means of the user’s own leg movement. And according to a study published in the journal Ergonomics1, this is proven to give four times more movement than your normal chair.

The Karolinska Institutet study monitored in detail the physical movements of people as they performed cognitive tasks that required high levels of concentration and detailed movements like typing out poems written in old English. The participants were studied while they sat on a HÅG SoFi chair with the centre-tilt mechanism activated and deactivated, as well as while using a conventional office chair, and standing.

Motor skills, micro movements and concentration were all studied, with timing and accuracy taken into account – critical for productivity at work. State of the art measurement tools such as accelerometer sensors and high-frequency digital video cameras were used to document movement.

So, what were the results? The study indicated that it is possible to be active, even when seated. When the participants performed typical office tasks on a chair with an activated centre-tilt mechanism, the majority (73 per cent) were able to maintain physical activity levels classified as ‘moderately active’, as measured by accelerometers placed at the hip. The implication – that sitting in a HÅG chair is not sedentary – is an important affirmation for HÅG that their 30-year-long quest to get people moving while seated is valid.

When the participants worked while standing or seated in a conventional chair, only 33 per cent achieved the ‘moderately active’ level. In several of the study parameters, standing was associated with increased human activity. But importantly, this was not the case across the board; and in fact, as mentioned above, sometimes standing was even associated with decreased human activity.

The author of the study, Wim Grooten (a registered physical therapist and Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society) concluded that there is a difference in the capacity of different seating solutions to unconsciously promote human activity, without needing to change behaviour. He suggests that “we need to deepen our knowledge of the disadvantages of conventional sitting and the advances of light activity during office work to be able to establish better guidance for sedentary office work.”

The study has been published in the online edition of the journal Applied Ergonomics, and will appear in the print edition in April 2017.


1 Stranden, E., ‘Dynamic leg volume changes when sitting in a locked and free-floating tilt office chair’, ERGONOMICS, 2000, VOL 43, NO. 3, 421-433.

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