Ever Thought What Your Office Chair Is Doing To Your Body?

Back in the 1960s one of the big pension companies ran the same cartoon ad strip for years. It showed this guy as he progressed through life. It started with him as a 25 year old and saving for old age wasn't even on the agenda. At 35 he's thinking it's something for the future and puts the idea on the back burner. At 45 he's thinking it's time to make a start, but doesn't. And at 55 years old it shows him worried as hell because he never took action and now it's much too late.

It's striking how similar office chairs are in this respect. At 25 you could sit on a sand bag all day and it wouldn't matter. Ten years on at 35 maybe there are a few niggling aches and pains, yet nothing much to worry about. Come 45 and the thought crosses the mind you probably ought to change that crappy chair. By the time you get to 55 it could all be too late because those years of sitting badly will have taken their toll.

There have been loads of recent reports about sitting being bad for you and a significant contributor to heart disease, diabetes, weight problems and posture problems. What is it about sitting that causes the issues?

Movement is key
The problem with sitting in low quality chairs is you just don't get the movement you need to keep your body healthy and comfortable. What happens is you become locked in one position for hours at a time.

Consequently your core muscles slowly seize up from lack of use. One way to combat this is to stand up and move for a short while. And often – every ten minutes is a good idea. Even if it's only for 30 seconds.

And adding a few simple exercises will make a real difference. Search ‘office chair exercises' on YouTube for some handy routines.

Long term though you need to be looking at getting a better chair.

Why some chairs are better for your health
Fortunately a few seating manufacturers know all about the importance of movement.


HÅG H04 Chair

One of the first to promote this concept was HÅG of Norway. When you sit in one of its chairs like the H04 or H05 you will notice a subtle difference.

What you will find is as you move in the chair it moves with you supporting you as you change position. This helps to prevent muscles seizing up as well as keeping them toned and your blood circulation moving.

Several other manufacturers also produce chairs designed for good movement. Knoll's Generation, Steelcase's Leap and Herman Miller's Embody are all worth considering.

Hidden drawbacks of using the wrong chair
When you work in a poorly designed chair not only is it bad for you health it affects other things too.

Often your productivity will tank. This is understandable because when your chair is causing you pain it saps concentration levels. Instead of having your mind fully on your work you find yourself shifting around trying to get comfortable.

Benefits of good design
When Steelcase developed its Leap chair it conducted a study of several hundred users which showed that productivity levels improved by an impressive 17.89% due to its superior design benefits.


Steelcase Leap

Once you are comfortably supported you're able to channel your efforts into your work without any painful distractions.

It's easy to think that all office chairs are the same, something that lasts a couple of years after which you replace it with a new one. Before you know it you find you are locked into long term discomfort caused by badly designed seating. Because this all happens gradually it isn't always apparent that long term damage to your body is taking place.

And the older you get the more important it becomes to break this cycle and invest in a proper chair. You will be amazed at the difference it makes to your working comfort. So don't end up like the 55 year old who never started saving and suddenly realized it was too late.

What next?
Begin by taking a look at some of the chairs we've mentioned in this article like the H04, H05, Generation, Leap and Embody. All will greatly enhance your sitting comfort.

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Why Good Ergonomics Can Sometimes Work Against You In A Home Office

Do you remember the last time you were caught up in a bad traffic jam? Just crawling along with your body stuck in the same position for an hour or more. Chances are the experience left you feeling stiff and tense.

Sometimes it can feel like this in your home office too.

Tight office space restricts movement
Many home offices are situated in a spare bedroom and usually this is the smallest room in the house. As a result space is often limited with your desk taking up a good chunk of the floor space. So you end up with pretty much everything being near to hand.

But isn't that a good thing? Well yes and no.

Good ergonomics suggests having key equipment close to hand
In a normal office it’s usually recommended you set your workstation up in such a way that the most commonly used equipment falls within a 12 inch radius from your chair. Beyond this you would have less frequently used items located a little further away.

Obviously this makes good sense to cut down on twisting and stretching at odd angles to reach things.

However, due to the restricted size of the typical home office space many of the compensating activities that keep you on the move don't happen.

There’s no photocopier or central print area to walk to. No meetings to get up out of you seat to attend and no rest room or canteen to visit.

All this lack of movement can leave your body inactive for long periods and that usually results in tired and aching muscles before too long.

How can we tackle this problem?

Modifying the way you work to increase movement
It is still a good idea to have frequently used items handy to avoid making the awkward twists and turns that can happen even in a confined office space.

This means we need to get healthy movement in other ways to replace all those lost trips to the copier and meeting rooms.

Begin by getting out of your chair at least every 20-30 minutes, even if it’s only to take a few steps around your work area. Increasing this by taking a break to make yourself a cup of coffee or tea is another way of keeping more active. And if the weather is good step outside and get some fresh air.

Adding in some simple exercise routines and stretches is a great way to add back some activity into tired muscles. Even lying on your back with knees bent pointing upwards for 6 to 8 minutes will give your back and shoulders a break from carrying your body weight continuously.

So, to prevent your body from feeling like it’s been caught up in a traffic jam, make a conscious effort to keep moving throughout your working day. Doing so will ensure the limitations of a home office don't leave you with muscle and posture problems.

What’s your experience of working in a home office and what ways have you found for relieving aches and pains?

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New Knoll Inc Report Shows Generation Y Vulnerable To Ergonomic Injury

A new report from Knoll Inc – New Workplace Ergonomics Research, Emerging Risks And Solutions reveals that even Generation Y workers are susceptible to ergonomic injury.

When you consider that a Generation Y worker is probably 30 years old or under that’s a pretty worrying thought.

And yet it’s perhaps not so surprising. Two previous studies also by Knoll found this generation spends some 7.5 hours a day using electronic devices. Such extensive use of these devices must impinge on individuals health in the longer term, whatever their age.

A separate university study of students found that by 2008 over 50% of surveyed participants encountered pain they felt was the result of computer use. The study concluded that many showed the potential to enter the workplace with an existing upper body injury.

The proliferation of larger and frequently multiple monitor use was highlighted as a worrying trend in terms of user health.

Combating the problems
The report highlights the need for properly set up work areas. In the case of multiple monitors the use of monitor arms will make a big difference in the ability to fine tune screen positions for individual user comfort.

Seating needs to be designed to support user’s posture changes. And standing to work for part of the day helps because it places a lot less strain on the spine.

Training in how to work more healthily will help to make staff more aware of the issues and how to tackle them.

It’s also recommended organizations should have areas where more casual lounge style furniture is available.

More information
Here’s where you can find Knoll’s latest Generation Y report. And here’s where you can find other interesting research articles and reports from Knoll Inc.

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Are You Suffering Back Pain From Your Office Chair? 3 Quick Tips

Most back pain from office chairs is down to one of the following three reasons.

  1. Poor quality seating
  2. Bad posture when sitting
  3. Lack of movement when working

In this 3 part article we’re going to look into each in detail and consider how best to tackle them and improve your working comfort.

Let’s start with the first of them.

Poor quality seating
Cheap seating is a major contributor to back related pain in the office. The reason this happens is principally down to the use of poor quality materials which aren't designed for long term use. A classic example of this is low quality seat foam which goes hard and flat in a matter of months.

Another problem is missing features making it impossible for users to fine tune adjustments to their needs.

So much for the seat, what about the way we sit?

Bad posture when sitting
This is something that you can take action on, although if you have a really bad chair it may limit your success.

Slouching when you're sitting is a real killer for your back. As you back rounds it puts pressure on your muscle and spine resulting in pain.

It’s a good idea to place your body well back as you sit down so the chair’s back is in contact with and supporting your back. If there is a lumbar support make sure it’s well positioned for lower back comfort.

Craning your neck forwards is a very bad habit that is all too easy to get into. Over time it will cause a lot of neck and shoulder discomfort. The key to avoiding this is to make sure your screen can be read comfortably when you are sitting in a relaxed upright position.

Other sources of back pain come from incorrect seat depth for your legs and also the amount of pressure required to recline comfortably. On many chairs both seat depth and recline tension are fixed and so the only solution will be a new chair.

And the final problem can often be solved by a change of habit.

Lack of movement when working
Far too many people remain seated all day, apart from taking a lunch break.


Woman Reclining In Generation Chair

Although better quality chairs are designed to help you move as you work, even the best of them won’t do your exercise for you.

No matter what seat you have getting out of it regularly and having a stretch or taking a short walk is vital. We aren't designed to be fixed in one posture for hours at a time. You should aim to get up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so and do some simple stretches and maybe walk around the office.


Man Working In Leap Chair

Sitting at 90 degrees used to be common advice for office workers. Nowadays a more open sitting angle is recommended. Research by Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen Scotland found that an angle of 135 degrees body to thigh seating position reduced the strain on the spine and its ligaments.

While this is good advice, it’s simply not possible with most office chairs. Even if you recline in them to work they tip your legs upwards making it very difficult to remain in contact with your work.

Happily, some modern chairs like the Knoll Generation and Steelcase Leap will allow the user to work in this more open angled position.

In conclusion
Back pain in the office is usually caused by one of these 3 reasons:

  • Poor quality seating
  • Bad posture when sitting
  • Lack of movement when working

With a little awareness it’s usually fairly easy to spot the problem and take action to sort things out.

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How Active Sitting Helps Undo The Harmful Effect Of Passive Office Chairs

When you spend all day in an office chair you will likely find that as the day wears on you find aches and pains starting to set in. And there's a good reason why this tends to happen. It all has to do with the design of many office seats which discourage active sitting. In fact most chairs do the opposite.

The negative effects of passive sitting
So what do we mean by passive sitting? When you sit in the average office chair it just isn't designed to encourage sufficient movement. The area which is affected most is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs.

It's a bit like a hinge. When you stand up back and legs open up like the hinge and as you sit down the hinge closes up again. It doesn't close up fully of course, instead what happens is you just end up being locked in the same position for hours and that's not good.

Think of it like the rare occasions when you need to turn of the water supply into your house. It can be very difficult as everything has seized up through lack of use. Of course we all know it's a good idea to periodically turn the supply on and off to keep it moving freely. And yet we never do it because we don't give it a thought, until it's a problem.

Not all office chairs are tarred with the same brush and some of the better quality seating from companies like HÅG, Steelcase and Herman Miller do encourage movement around the hinge area. Even so, they don't always provide as much movement as we need, sometimes a different approach is needed.

How can you achieve active sitting?
As explained above the fault with many chairs is the lack of body movement provided around the lower back and upper leg area. In the past this right angled way of sitting was considered to be the way to sit.

However what happens is that it places a lot of restriction on the use of the muscles in the abdominal region and over time they lose their tone and start causing problems.

Some enlightened manufacturers produce specialist seats which encourage a more active approach to sitting. First these seats place your legs at a much more open angle around 110° rather than the restrictive 90° so prevalent with office chairs. And then they take things a stage further by making it easy to move those core muscle through promoting active sitting.

A good example of such a seat is the Swopper stool from Aeris.

swopper in grey

Swopper Active Seat

Initially it looks like a stool with a spring around the center support, however it's only when you sit in it you discover what makes it different and why it keeps you body healthy and on the move. As you sit on it the seat pad angles forwards and you use your feet to control the seat.

The overall effect of this is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs becomes far more active. As you go about your work the Swopper keeps things moving and so your muscles get used, keeping healthy and active.

Other seats which work in a similar way include the Move stool by Varier and the Muvman which we looked at in a recent post.

Of course the downside is that you have to replace your existing chair, at least until now.

Enter the Human Tool Balance seat
This clever seat acts as an adapter to convert your passive seat into an active one, here's how it does it.

human tool balance

Human Tool Balance Seat

It has a saddle shaped upholstered seat which is mounted on a large plastic ball. All you need to do is to place it on your existing chair and sit on it. Because of the design the saddle shape of the seat straight away sets your legs at a healthy open angle.

Then as you work and move it lets you move, front to back as well as side to side. Consequently the whole of your lower body is far more active, leaving little chance that those core muscles will seize up any more.

And it works with other seats too, even easy chairs and sofas. For these types of seats which often have spongy cushions it comes with a round wooden board which you place on the seat first to stop the ball sinking into the upholstery.

The other great thing is the cost, it's about $160 which is certainly a lot less than buying a full new active seat.

Let's quickly summarize what we've covered here:

  • Passive sitting isn't good as your core muscles weaken thorough lack of use
  • Some better quality chairs do encourage more active movement
  • Specialist seats will help you to enjoy active sitting
  • The Human Tool seat lets you easily convert passive seats to active ones

Further reading
Here's where you can find more about the Swopper, Move, Muvman and Human Tool seats. They will help stop your body resembling that seized up water inlet supply.

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Is Your Desk Chair Causing Office Chairitis?

You certainly won't find the condition office chairitis in any medical book. Nonetheless there are thousands of people suffering its effects every day without even realizing it. So what exactly is office chairitis and how do you know if it's affecting you?

Office chairitis is my way of describing the sorts of problems people put up with daily by spending long hours in poorly designed desk chairs.

What are the signs of office chairitis?
Here are some of the clues that your chair is the cause of of this condition.

Lower Back Pain From A Bad Chair

Do you find that after you've been working for an hour or so your shoulders and neck start to ache? And as the day wears on so does your pain.

Maybe for you it's more a case of lower back pain. The base of your back just aches and when you do eventually get up out of your chair you feel as stiff as a rusted hinge.

For others it shows up in the form of nagging discomfort in the undersides of your thighs. No amount of wriggling and moving about in your chair seems to help ease things.

And if you are really unfortunate you may even suffer from several of these problems at the same time.

So much for the problems, what is at the root of them?

What causes office chairitis?
Almost always the cause comes down to sitting in low quality seating.

 Worn Out Chairs Don't Support You

The reason your neck and shoulders are aching is because of the lack of a properly designed seat. Cheap chairs often place your body in a lousy posture and as a result your neck and shoulders end up being badly supported.

This inflicts undue stress on the muscles in your neck and shoulders and as they tire they start protesting in pain.

It can even be down to something like fixed arms on your chair. When they aren't at the right height your shoulders often get hunched up in the air forcing your upper body into an unnatural posture.

A similar problem arises with your lower back. For good back comfort it's necessary to maintain the natural curvature of your spine, known as lordosis.

When a chair lacks the correct support for your lower back what happens is you start to slump in your chair. Your lower back becomes rounded and what results is this all places a huge additional strain on your lumbar region. Bring on the pain says your brain.

And when pain in the undersides of your thighs is your problem, there's a good chance it's down to your chair too. One of the commonest causes of this is cheap chair foam. The quality of foam in office chairs varies enormously. In cheap chairs it's frequently little more than packaging foam. This type of foam isn't designed to take the constant pressure of your body sitting on it.

Typically after a few months of use this type of foam starts to deteriorate and no longer retains its shape. As it gradually breaks down it isn't long before it all goes flat. And that's when the underside of your legs start to ache from sitting too long on a hard flat surface.

Let's take a look at what you need to do to fix these issues.

How can you tackle it?
When you job involves sitting long hours in a desk chair, unless you want to be in constant pain you have to invest in a proper chair.

HÅG Futu Ergonomically Designed

A well designed chair takes care of all these problems because it's properly engineered to do the heavy lifting for you.

So it places your body in a good and well supported posture. This prevents the aches and pains so you can concentrate on doing your job properly.

Of course you are looking at a sizable investment around $500 or more. And before you protest that you couldn't spend this much on an office chair lets look at the cost over it's lifetime.

Chairs at this level are designed to last between 5 and 10 years. We know this because the makers guarantee them for these sorts of periods and in some cases even longer.

So let's be conservative and assume we will get 7 years use form our chair and run the math on it. Working on a 40 hour week and 48 working weeks a year for 7 years our $500 chair works out at an overall daily cost of just under 30 cents.

So the cure for office chairitis is only 30 cents a day. Unfortunately there is no payment plan for this, I just want you to know this is the barrier to having a proper chair that isn't going to screw up your back.

I was at a computer and electronics fair recently and there was a guy selling clones of the iPhone 4S for about 10% of retail. At first glance they appeared to be the same. However when you looked at the screen you realized that HD in this case stood for horrible definition, the resolution was like a sixties TV set.

Exactly the same thing happens in office chairs. There are loads of cheap copies out there, they may look great. However reality only hits home once you start to use them. Your eyes may be fooled, your muscles won't. You really do get what you pay for.

Here's a quick checklist of the points we've covered:

  • Office chairitis is caused by badly designed seating
  • Fixed arms can often lead to neck and shoulder pain
  • Chair backs lacking the right support cause lower back pain
  • Worn out seat foam leads to upper leg discomfort
  • The cost to cure office chairitis with a proper chair is under 30 cents a day

Further information
This short video explains what you need on an office chair to get proper comfort. And here's where you can find some great chairs built to support you for many years.

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Is It Possible To Exercise In An Office Chair? Simple Tips For Keeping Fit At Work

We all know that sitting in an office chair all day isn't the healthiest pastime in the world. Still, as we're stuck with it it's a case of making the best of a bad job. Hopefully you have a decent chair and you have taken the time to set it all up correctly to make sure you're working as healthily as possible.

So what else can you do to keep your body fit? How about exercising in your task chair?

Is it possible to exercise in an office chair?
It may seem odd and yet it's really quite simple to exercise in you chair as you go about your daily tasks. Not only that it makes a lot of sense to build in these routines into your working life. It's important to keep your muscles moving when you want to keep them in good shape.

Let's take a look at some ways you can exercise while sitting at you desk.

Exercises to keep your neck and shoulders healthy
For most people it's likely their neck and shoulders take the most strain when sitting all day. This is no surprise because it's just too easy to lock your head frontwards as you work away.

Here are a couple of ideas for exercises you can do in your office chair to help things.

Sit in your chair facing forwards and grip the side of the seat of your chair with your left arm. Next tilt your head down towards your right shoulder and feel the stretch in your muscles on top of your left shoulder. Hold this for about 15 seconds, then relax and repeat.

Follow this by doing the same for your right shoulder using your right arm to grip your chair seat.

Next, sit facing forwards, rest your left arm on top of your left leg with your right arm hanging naturally from your shoulder pointing to the floor. Gently turn your head to the left and look over your shoulder. Keep things relaxed and don't overstretch. Hold this position for about 15 seconds, then return to face forwards and relax for a few moments before repeating the exercise.

Finally do the same for your right hand side by switching the role of your arms.

Next let's move to your legs.

Exercises for keeping your legs toned
Your legs tend to take a lot of hammer when you sit all day, so let's look at how we can rejuvenate them.

Turn your chair to one side so you have space to stretch out your legs with feet on the floor. Lift your right knee upwards and grasp the front of it just under the knee with both hands. Pull the bent leg towards you gently and hold this position for about 20 seconds. This will get a good stretch into your leg muscles. Lower your leg and relax and then do the same for your left leg.

Next, again sitting to one side place your legs out in front of you with feet on the floor. Place your right leg over your left leg so you are sitting cross legged. Take your left hand and grip the outside of your right knee pulling it to the left. At the same time turn your head to look over your right shoulder with your right arm by your side. Hold this position for about 20 seconds and then return to your original position and relax for a few moments.

Repeat the exercise for your other side. This stretches the muscles in your trunk which tend to get very little activity when you are sitting.

What else can you do?

How else can you keep fit in the office?
As well as exercising it's important to get up out of your chair frequently during the day. Keeping things moving is the best way to prevent muscles from tiring and getting overused. When you get the opportunity move out of your chair and walk for a short while. Do some simple stretches too as this all helps get mobility back into your body.

How often should you exercise?
It's a mistake to think that one set of exercises a day is enough. You should aim to do these simple stretches at twice in the morning and again in the afternoon. And it goes without saying if you have any health issues always seek professional advice before trying out new exercises.

So what are you waiting for? Make a start on toning up those tired muscles by exercising in your office chair.

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You Only Get One Back: Is Your Office Chair Ruining It?

Have you ever observed a young baby as soon as it has learnt to sit up? If you have you may well have been struck by the beautiful posture of the child's back.

The spine is straight and shoulders sit naturally by it's side. Not only that, the side movement of the head is huge compared to the average adult. Babies can easily turn their heads well over 90 degrees to the left or right.

Sadly, in a few short years it all starts to go downhill. Sitting in lousy seating at school and then hours in front of a TV or computer soon starts to take its toll.

So, even by the time you start work, it's likely you will have lost a fair amount of the natural back movement you had as a young child. This makes it important that you pick a good office seat if you spend most of the working day sitting in one.

Let's look at how the wrong chair only makes things worse.

How a bad office chair damages your back
To keep your back healthy you need to avoid office chairs with poor back supports. Chairs with low fixed backs aren't a good idea as they leave large areas of your back unsupported.

Chairs that have no lumbar support should be avoided too. The most important area of you back to support is the lower back or lumbar region. Unshaped chair backs are unlikely to give you the support you need. And backs with exaggerated shapes can be just as bad and should be avoided to.

If you prefer a mesh back chair make sure it doesn't have a poorly designed hard plastic frame because it can dig into your back.

So, what should you look for to get proper back support?

What should you chair back include?
The most important feature of any office chair back is that it provides you with good support for your lower back. Ideally it should be able to be adjusted to nest comfortably into the small of your back.

On a chair with a small or medium height back it should be height adjustable with some light shaping allowing it to rest comfortably into your lumbar region.

Alternatively, it may include a separate lumbar support which can be positioned to suit your needs. This is quite popular on chairs with high backs which may well be fixed. Often they have an adjustable lumbar support to fine tune things.

With mesh backs it's best to avoid really cheap chairs as the mesh won't support your back. Better quality chairs use mesh designed to give good support and these sometimes use two or three ply mesh specifically made for the purpose.

And even when you have a chair with good back support you can always do more.

How else can you look after your back?
Sitting for hours on end is not a good idea even in the best of chairs. Our body craves movement and when it doesn't get it it starts to ache. This is nature's way of saying it's time to move.

Getting up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so is a good idea. Take a quick break and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Also, do some quick stretches to keep your body supple. This doesn't mean you have to start doing some strenuous exercise routine. Just a few simple stretches is all that is needed to keep things moving healthily.

The older you get the more important this becomes. Unfortunately you will never get back all the healthy posture you had as a baby. Nonetheless it's vital that we maintain our backs by giving them the best support and help we can.

A good chair combined with some basic stretches will go a long way to looking after your back.

Further information
Selecting the right chair back is important, however there are other features that matter too. This short video explains what a good ergonomic office chair should include.


Why A Lousy Office Chair Can Leave You Like A Cooked Frog

It's getting mighty warm around here!

Have you ever heard the theory about the frog in a pan of water where the temperature is gradually and continually increased?

It begins with placing a frog in a pan of cold water and then very gradually increasing the temperature of the water. As the water slowly heats up the frog relaxes and enjoys the feeling.

However, in the end the temperature increases to the point at which the frog slowly cooks, realizing too late that it is in the process of boiling alive.

Whether it's true or not no-one really knows. Spending too long in a lousy office chair is a bit like the frog in the pan, it can end up killing your back. And because it takes years for this to happen it creeps up on us without our ever noticing what's happening to our body. Until it's too late of course.

Why do we ignore the need for a good chair?
When we are in our twenties and thirties it's easy to overlook the quality of the chair we sit in. Often we regard it as somewhere to just park our butt as we get on with our work. And as long as it doesn't fall apart we're happy to continue using it.

It's only when you get older and reach forty and beyond that all those years of sitting in inferior chairs start to take their toll. Aching back, stiff shoulders and neck muscles become more frequent. In the end maybe you decide it's time I changed this chair. And yet what happens is most people go and buy another crappy chair and before they know it end up no better off.

Let's look at what they should be doing.

Why a proper ergonomic office chair makes sense
It's a funny thing with office chairs, if you ask people to spend more than a $100 on one they regard it as a waste of money. When you take into account how long you spend each day in it, you may well find it adds up to more than the time you spend in your bed. And yet would you only spend a mere $100 on your bed? Unlikely.

So what's different about a proper ergonomic chair?

First, it's built from quality components so you won't find screws dropping out, arms working loose or seat pads going hard and brittle.

Second, it will be designed to support your body comfortably and safely. As you move in the chair it moves with you so your body doesn't suffer stresses.

Third, it will adjust to fit your body. Key to this is the ability to be able to adjust the depth of the seat to fit your leg length. Something you just don't see on cheap chairs.

Lastly, it will have a good warranty period at least 5 years and even up to 15 years in some cases. It's the manufacturer's vote of confidence in its product showing they are prepared to stand by the quality and reliability of what they are making.

Sure, you're looking at a fair outlay. A minimum of $300 and maybe double that, still you only need to buy it once. So it's an investment in your body, no more quick fixes that soon put you right back where you started. After all you only get one back, so you need to look after it. Don't run the risk of ending up like our cooked frog.

Further information
Here are links to a recent Blog series on branded chairs from reputable manufacturers. Each one takes a look at a different chair maker and its top 3 models.


Are You Sitting Healthily In Your Office Chair? Why Right Angled Sitting Is Harmful

It seems that sitting all day in an office chair is slowly killing us all off if we are to believe recent reports and research into sitting.

According to professor Galen Krantz author of the book “The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design” it's not that sitting is a bad thing rather it's the way we do it that causes all the problems.

There is an excellent interview with professor Krantz at the Body Conscious Design website called Beyond The Chair in which she explains what is wrong with the way we sit and how simple changes can help to improve things.

How you sit is important
Krantz draws attention to the perils of right angled sitting, where the body is placed at a harmful 90° angle for hours on end. She highlights the problems this creates:

  • It places your spine in an unhealthy C shape
  • Your chest caves inwards
  • Your pelvis gets crunched up
  • The lower back collapses
  • Your neck gets thrust forwards

All these debilitating postures end up giving us aches and pains due to the unnatural positions we get forced into. So how can we help improve things?

Setting up your work space properly
Simply getting your work area and how you address it sorted can make a big difference according to Krantz. And a lot of it is common sense too.

For example if you use the phone a lot then get yourself a headset. Without it the temptation to wedge the phone between shoulder and ear places enormous strain on your neck.

Adjust your screen so that the center is about 7 to 10 inches below your horizontal line of sight. And look away and focus on distant objects occasionally to keep your eyes healthy.

Set your office chair up so that your knees are below your hips. An angle of about 100° is good as it keeps your back's lumbar curve healthy.

Reposition your mouse and consider getting a vertically operated mouse if you suffer wrist and arm pain.

Switch between different types of chair, say an office chair and a kneeling chair or a ball chair. I alternate between a task chair and a knee chair and it's definitely beneficial. If you are on a tight budget a ball chair is going to be the more affordable option.

Do simple exercises when muscle start to tire. It will keep them toned and prevent them becoming chronically fatigued.

Finally takes frequent strolls even if it's just around the office or home.

The key to most of these suggestions is movement. Your body hates being fixed in one position for too long and this is why 90° sitting is so harmful.

If it's such a good idea why aren't furniture manufacturers making suitable products?
Krantz believes that the furniture industry is aware of what's needed. However she points out that the real problem lies in persuading customers to make the change and that's not easy.

And she is not afraid to argue against products she believes aren't good. She is a big opponent of the Aeron chair pointing out that the lumbar support was only put in because it's what people expect in a good chair. So what does she believe is needed?

Movement and variation of posture is key
Krantz is a big fan of variable height work surfaces. Particularly the ability to perch when sitting as it opens up the body allowing much healthier posture.

In terms of chairs, she likes the rocking action of the Balans chair and also HÅG's Capisco for its perching qualities and the Varier Gravity for lounging while computing. She also gives good advice for sitting in the home as well.

What you do at home matters too
Perching on a stool is good for back strength and she advises keeping the feet firmly on the floor. Work surface height is important and having it set just below elbow level keeps your wrists straight when chopping food for example.

In terms of altering posture Krantz recommends lying down on a hard flat surface with knees pointing upwards and breathing deeply for 15 minutes each day. This acts to relieve lower back pain and muscle fatigue.

Sitting cross legged on the floor is another beneficial posture and using a sloping cushion like the Zafu is handy as it conforms with your body angle.

Putting it all together
Let's look at the key points Galen Krantz recommends for healthy sitting and working:

  • Sitting isn't necessarily bad, it's how we do it that matters
  • Sitting at a closed 90° angle is bad for the body
  • Setting up your work area is important for a healthy posture
  • Doing simple exercises helps keep muscles toned
  • Taking walks around the office is good
  • Alternating working at different heights keeps the body active
  • Developing healthy habits at home is important too.

Further reading
Here's where you can find the Beyond The Chair interview with Galen Krantz. It's presented in a colorful PDF format with lots of useful illustrations highlighting the points in the article.

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