If your work involves sitting down at the computer for most of the day, you probably understand the special kind of muscle stiffness that comes with it.
It’s not that you’re unfit. You exercise (kind of) regularly, and you’re in better shape than a lot of your friends.
But you still get the back pain and the neck tension. You still struggle to lose weight, despite the exercise. You still feel tired most of the time. Exercising still feels like a chore.
And the thing is, you don’t just want to be moderately fit: You want to be stronger, more flexible, more energized, and more focused than the average Joe. You want to feel 100% comfortable in your body. You know the key is to move more, but how do you turn exercise into a consistent habit that you actually enjoy?
Working at the Computer Isn’t the Problem — This Is
Biochemist and author Katy Bowman, M.S., says, “We are currently experiencing unprecedented sedentarism” as a species.
She emphasizes the difference between movement and exercise: It’s not enough to exercise a few hours a week and sit for the remaining time; we need to move more parts of our body in different ways, more often and more effectively.
Throughout her work, Bowman explains how important it is that we include more natural kinds of movement in our daily life: lifting, pulling, squeezing, pushing, squatting, stretching, standing up, sitting in different positions, etc.
But it’s hard to find time (and even remember) to stand up every 30 minutes in between work slots, to stretch after standing up, or even to fit in a yoga flow after work — especially when we already struggle to have time to juggle all our work, social, and personal commitments.
Luckily, moving more doesn’t require more of your time — it just requires a smarter approach.
The Story of How and Why I Removed All the Chairs From My House
A few weeks ago, my partner and I spent a weekend camping in the forest. On one of our walks, we decided to leave the trail and enter the forest to explore.
The forest was quite dense, so we had to put down our backpacks. We took our shoes off so we could better balance on the moss-covered rocks and enjoy the pine needle–carpeted floor. And so we entered deeper and deeper into the forest, climbing over fallen trees, balancing on rocks, and swinging off branches.
Moving in the forest brought a two-fold realization. On one hand, I felt an immense pleasure from using all of these unfamiliar movements and playing freely, like the tension was dissipating from my body and all the stress was going away. It felt like coming home, like my body was always meant to play and move like this.
On the other hand, in comparison, I realized how much of my time I spend doing the exact opposite: sitting in front of the screen, with the exception of occasional one-hour slots to exercise, bathroom breaks, and cooking time.
This made me think: How could I cultivate more of this kind of movement that made me feel so good — natural, playful, constant, unrestricted — in my life?
My partner felt exactly the same. So when we asked ourselves, openly and honestly, what’d be the one thing we could do that’d make movement more effortless for us, the answer was obvious:
Stop using chairs.
A Life With No Chairs: What’s Changed?
Where do we spend most of our time working? Chairs. Where do we sit when we eat? Chairs. Where do we default to when we’re tired? Chairs. When we invite people over? Chairs. Chairs, chairs, chairs.
So we came home and stored all of our chairs away in the garage (we already don’t own a sofa — otherwise, we’d have done the same with it).
You might be thinking, “This sounds quite extreme — where do we sit now? Is that even practical?”
The answer is yes, it’s practical. Removing chairs was just the beginning — a habit with a snowball effect that led us to naturally implement a bunch of other healthy changes to adapt to our new reality.
Here are a few:
We built DIY standing desks. Now, when I work standing, I usually dance or shift position whenever I feel uncomfortable. When I’m tired, I sit on the floor because we’ve also installed…
Floor mats! All across the office/living-room/exercise-room floor. Another way I love to work is sitting or lying or squatting on the floor — I just transport my standing desk to the ground, and voilà! When we have guests over, we also sit on the floor all together with some cushions (it’s warm and cozy), and the same goes for watching movies, reading, or relaxing in the evenings.
What about eating? We also replaced our kitchen table with a Japanese style low table. Now we sit cross-legged or kneel on cushions to eat, which works the back muscles, improves posture, and even makes digestion easier.
You Don’t Have to Throw Away Your Chairs, but You Need to Find the One Thing That Works for You
Maybe ditching all of your chairs is too much for you. And that’s OK; we’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you — and vice versa.
But here’s what does work: choosing one simple change that’s likely to make everything else easier instead of trying to change everything all at once.
If I had tried to make myself work standing, stretch more often, stop using the couch, stand up more regularly, and eat on the floor, I would have failed — for sure. But instead, I implemented one change that made all those things completely natural and obvious, and now they’ve become a seamless part of my routine.
Instead of thinking about all the specific kinds of movement you want to include in your day, think about one single change or habit that could serve as a cue for all of those things.
For me, that was removing all the chairs: It led to changing how I eat, how I work, how I play, how I live. For you, it might be something completely different — it depends on your personal goals:
- Do you want to feel less stiff and more flexible and relaxed?
- Do you want to lose weight?
- Do you want to use physical movement as a way to take energizing breaks and focus better at work?
- Do you simply want to be more connected to your body?
- Do you want to develop specific skills (like handstands)?
- Where in your house do you want to be moving? Or is it at the gym? Or outdoors?
What’s the one habit or the one change that’d make it much easier for you to achieve your movement goals?
Start with that, and then let it change everything else naturally.