You may or may not be aware of the serious health implications of prolonged sitting, and why this is a cause for concern for all of us who spend 30+ hours sitting at our work desks every single week.
Sitting down causes a number of stresses in our bodies, especially our spines, and this has recently begun to be more recognised by health professionals and is the main reason for the sudden boom of ergonomic office chairs.
What does the term ‘Ergonomic’ mean?
Ergonomics is a science, also known as human engineering or biotechnology. The discipline involves looking at how objects can be designed and/or arranged to best compliment easy and safe human interaction.
An ergonomic chair, for example, is a chair that has been designed to best support the human body, including considerations like posture, comfort, support and health.
What makes a chair ‘Ergonomic’?
Ergonomic office chairs have a number of features designed to improve your posture and offer correct support, but they only do half the job – To truly feel the benefits of an ergonomic chair, you should first learn how to sit properly:
- Keep an arm’s length away from your computer screen. Ideally, the top of the monitor should be level with your eyes.
- Sit up straight and avoid slouching. Your neck should be in a relaxed and neutral position.
- Keep your arms parallel to the floor
- Sit with both feet flat on the floor, and avoid crossing your legs. This is to allow correct blood circulation within your legs.
A good ergonomic chair will be adjustable, to allow for better control and customised settings. Adjustability is especially important if you are buying chairs that will be used by different users. If you are buying a chair for your home office, or for one person specifically, consider using their body dimensions for a greater ‘fit’.
Ergonomic chair features
1. Seat height
The optimal seat height should allow you to place your feet flat on the floor, which is why choosing a chair with an adjustable seat height is essential because everyone is different. What’s more, with most work desks remaining at a fixed height, it is important that the seat height can be altered. A seat height that ranges from 16 to 21 inches off the floor should work for most people.
2. Seat width and depth
Proper seat depth should leave between 2 and 4 inches between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees. If the seat is too far forward, it may put undue pressure at the back of the knees.
3. Seat tilt
Good ergonomic chairs will allow the seat to tilt, which allows for correct positioning of the pelvis. Anterior pelvic tilt is a posture problem that affects almost everyone who sits a lot, which is why it’s important to keep the pelvis in a neutral position when sitting, with 80-degree angles at the hips, knees and ankles.
4. Backrest Lumbar support
This refers to the support given to your lower back and is an essential feature of an ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs support the natural ‘S’ shape of the spine, which prevents slumping and reduces stress on the spine and the pelvis. An adjustable backrest allows users to align the curve in the chair with the curve in their spine, for optimal support.
5. Backrest recline
An adjustable backrest allows for greater tailored positioning for the user, as they can move the backrest to more specifically support their natural spine position. Using this feature throughout the day allows the backrest to take some of the weight from your upper body, reducing the pressure on your spinal disks and muscles.
The swivel in an ergonomic chair helps users with their manoeuvrability, making it easier to reach different points of their desks without having to strain excessively.
Armrests help to reduce tension in the upper body and allow the shoulders to relax. However, armrests should not be used when typing as this reduces overall arm movement, which in turn increases wrist movement leading to strain on the forearm muscles.
Supports the back of the head and the upper neck, reducing tension in the shoulders and upper torso.
A good ergonomic chair is made out of comfortable materials. The material should not cause the user’s back to sweat. However, the materials used will depend on the budget; high-end ergonomic chairs will use leather or velvet.
If your chair will be used on a hard surface, find a chair with soft rubber wheels. If your workplace/home office is carpeted, opt for hard wheels to help you navigate better.