Today we have more mobility than any time in history because of air travel, the internet, and cultural acceptance to think outside the status quo. We have the ability to seek, find, traverse, arrive, leave, and nurture that which we find valuable.
Because of our newfound mobility, the accepted standard of what we consider a life of stability has changed. It used to include remaining near the town where we grew up, buying a house, and staying in the same career until retirement. It was considered risky and unstable to move somewhere new, rent (rather than own) a home, or change careers too often, at risk of being judged a “quitter” or “transient.”
And now? Gone are the days of our sedentary ways. A place can be so much more than a location on a map. A place can also be a mental frame of mind or a stage in our career. Mobility is moving from the place we are now to transcend into another place that we want to be. It means being flexible, fluid, resilient, and strong-- all at the same time.
My friend nicknamed me her tumbleweed friend because my husband and I packed up our children and wandered the Southwest in our Airstream travel trailer for 4 months one winter. Then we sold everything we owned and moved to Australia for a year and a half. Her nickname for me alludes to the idea that my life is as unstable as a forlorn tumbleweed blowing aimlessly about the desert.
However, if she looked deeper, she would see how much stability has been created through the mobility of my life. More opportunities have come my way because of our flexible lifestyle. My marriage is more stable because we checked off bucket lists together; and, we have amazing, stable bonds with our children as a result of time spent together exploring new things and being willing to take risks, confront unknowns, and push our limits.
This concept - mobility is the new stability - applies to how we treat our bodies, too. Ask most office ergonomist from the past, and they would have agreed that a good chair was one that created low back stability with lumbar support and armrests.
While I can understand the original thinking behind this, we now know that passive, rigid support is detrimental to joints, muscles, and the overall stability of a functional body. True spinal stability requires that we provide a supporting structure radically different from its rigid predecessor. Today, stability is understood to be a dynamic strength that lives and breathes and changes. Stability means being more agile and able to make adjustments as-needed.
In this chair example, an external lumbar support can hold a person in a safe position, but it also causes atrophy (shrinkage) of the core and postural muscles. Over time, the person in a traditional ergonomic chair will experience more instability. This will expose them to more injury - not less.
I would even go so far as to say that using a traditional ergonomic chair the majority of the time can cause the very problems it is trying to prevent. This is because the muscles of the torso are no longer adequate to protect the spine or maintain proper posture. Then, it is only a matter of time before the person injures themselves picking up a child or bending over to tie their shoe.
In contrast, when the core muscles are engaged on a regular basis by standing, walking, or using active seating in the office, they become stronger and better at stabilizing the spine. This mobility leads to a more functional body that is less prone to injury.
If you aren't familiar with the term active seating, it is a category of office chairs that promote movement and improve core strength. Introducing active seating options to a workplace can play an important role in addressing injury prevention and sedentariness. Two active chairs I like are the Move and the Variable balans by a Norwegian company called Varier. Both chairs meet my 3 criteria for active seating:
The old model of stability said that safety is in proper positioning and precise angles: inflexible and sedentary. The new model of stability says that safety is in dynamic, controlled mobility: flexible and adaptable to our body’s needs and environmental conditions.
You have a choice: Changing the way you work in an office setting can be a challenging paradigm shift. If you would like to discuss how you can embrace stability through mobility, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness.
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