Body and mind – a Stone Age DNA in a high-tech era


New and primarily digitalised office environments require a new approach. This applies to ergonomics in particular: a rise in backache and metabolic complaints are often the result of particularly inactive lifestyles and methods of working. Which is why Wilkhahn has developed the free-to-move concept: it starts with encouraging movement while sitting at desks but doesn’t stop there by a long chalk.

In a five-part series, the Wilkhahn blog will present the key background information, issues and solutions to inspire workplace design that encourages more agile bodies and minds. In the first part, you can find out all the background to and causes of today’s lack of physical activity. What conclusions can be drawn for new sitting ergonomics?

Because technological progress occurs while we’re sitting, our metabolisms slow down, muscles atrophy and we’re more prone to stress.

Inherently energy efficient

Although our bodies are designed to squat, stand, run and lie down, sitting has become second nature to us. Whether we’re at home or at work, in public or private – nothing’s become as natural as sitting down, whenever and wherever we want. Even travelling about by bus, train, plane or car involves taking a seat. It’s clear that comfort and convenience are the key drivers of technological growth. Because the history of mankind’s struggle to survive has anchored the principle of saving calories as a natural way of conserving energy. And ranges and types of motion, as well as how long we move for, have increasingly dwindled. We once spent 10 to 12 hours using a whole range of motion while hunting and gathering until we became more settled and farmed the land. Then came industrialisation and sharing work, which in offices also led to shorter distances and the idea of placing everything efficiently within reach. With the advent of digitalisation and its associated tools, in just a few years, movement has been reduced to our fingers and ranges of motion to two-dimensional desktops and touchscreens. With serious consequences for our health: long-term illnesses among white collar workers now account for just under 40% of days lost to sickness. On average, each employee is written off sick for about three weeks a year.

Musculoskeletal complaints are the number one cause of days lost to sickness. According to the German healthcare insurer DAK’s 2018 health report, 75% of all employees have backache at least once a year and one in seven has already been suffering from it for three months or more.

Musculoskeletal complaints are the number one cause of days lost to sickness. Source: DAK Health Report 2018

The cause: too little physical activity and too much stress

It’s quite obvious that our bodies aren’t adequately stimulated at work or during our spare time to keep them healthy. Renowned health and sports scientists like Professor Ingo Froböse from the German Sport University Cologne point out that all physical skills wane if they’re not stimulated regularly. He comments that some 80% of backache is no longer the result of overtaxing our bodies but of lack of stimulation. The muscles are considered the biggest metabolic powerhouse and controlled by around 60 million stimulus receptors in the body. If they aren’t encouraged to move, muscles atrophy, our metabolic rate drops and our whole body runs on economy. In the long term, joints and bones degenerate and our immune systems are weakened. Because mind and body are closely linked.

Mental illness, which entails especially long periods written off sick, is the second cause of days lost to sickness. Where women are concerned, it’s even top of the list of illnesses. The frequent combination of too much constant stress and a lack of physical stimulation have an exceptionally negative impact, as stress hormones are no longer effectively curtailed if metabolic rates are poor and the immune system is damaged in the long term.


In the second part of the free-to-move series, you can find out how stimulation and a natural range of motion are placed at centre stage of new sitting ergonomics and how the free-to-move concept helps to put this into practice. In part 3, you can find out how Wilkhahn’s patented Trimension® technology taught sitting to walk. In part 4, we’ll be presenting three studies by the Center for Health (ZfG) that scientifically underpin the benefits of the free-to-move concept. Part 5 will provide an overview of Wilkhahn’s three office chair ranges in which the concept’s used.

To Part 2 of the free-to-move series: New ergonomics: sitting in natural positions

To Part 3 of the free-to-move series: Freedom to move in digital office workspaces

To Part 4 of the Free-to-move series: Study by the Centre for Health: Free-to-move – healthier, happier and more productive

To Part 5 of the Free-to-move series: One principle, three solutions

The trailer to our series, our free-to-move film, entertainingly summarises the whole issue:

Click here for more information on the free-to-move concept

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