Ergonomic seating is not a new concept, per se. It’s been around for several years now—long enough for users at work and in school, spine doctors. Chiropractors, and Pilates experts to tally their verdict. Non-traditional chairs such as exercise balls, stools, kneeling desks, and recliners are advantageous to the health of our spine, neck, lungs, and core. They have arrived and they are not leaving. That’s a good thing.
Think about a rolling desk chair with minimal cushion in the seat, a mid-length back, and a possible recline if you lean back. 30 years ago, a seat like that was heavenly compared to the old folding-type chairs used in cubicles.
And over the years, workers have suffered and complained of back and neck pain. As the sitter tends to pull his/her pelvis under, undue pressure is placed on discs—and for hours on end. As ergonomics has developed, so have fascinatingly simple, seat options.
Recently, the results of a new study on the benefits of standing desks was published. It basically said that, yes, too much sitting has adverse health affects, but it can’t yet be medically proven that standing all day is a great thing either. So in the interest of spreading the good word, we’ll stick to what we know is beneficial. Here are some tried-and-true newfangled-ish chairs to use at work or at school (if they’ll allow it.)
Basic Exercise Ball
You’ve seen these at the gym and you probably already have one. They’re rubbery, of course, round, and come in a few sizes. You want to be able to sit on the ball with your knees at a right angle, with both feet firm on the floor. This will engage your core.
If you’re under 5’4”, you’ll want a 55cm ball. A little taller, opt for the 65cm. And if you’re over 5’11”, get the 75cm. Tip: If every time you get up from your desk and the ball rolls away, pour sand inside and the weight will stabilize it.
Ergonomic Ball Chair
This is just like the regular exercise ball but it has little legs like a Dachshund. It won’t roll over or run away, and it’s still core beneficial. It encourages good posture; it’s tough to slouch on it, even if you try.
You’re not really kneeling, it’s more like “shinning.” It’s a chair that angles you forward and your shins pick up some of your bodyweight and create stability. Your spine can relax because you’re tilted forward and any strain is removed.
This is a fun ride. The bottom is actually rounded, letting you lean and tilt in any direction—without falling! It’s got no back, so it demands you sit-up straight, and the wobbliness forces your core muscles into action.
“Zero Gravity” Recliner
This is not the type of chair you can sway, wiggle, and bounce on. This seat option is for those who want relief from any pressure anywhere. The Zero Gravity recliner lays you back until most of your weight is distributed evenly throughout your body. Your feet raised slightly above your heart benefits your blood pressure.
Circulation is claimed to improve. Muscle, joint, and back pain is relieved while lying back. Some suggest the chair even relaxes the lungs, allowing for better breathing habits. This product is fabulous, but it’s also pricey. And really, it’ll be pretty tough to convince HR that you need to lie down in order to do your best work.
Many companies (massive and smaller) are investing in ergonomic seating for their employees as an investment. Good health and increased energy spells better productivity. Some schools are finding money in their budgets for alternative seating. Many students benefit physically, but also mentally.
If you’re boss gets you one (or you get one for yourself), don’t expect your fancy new chair will be comfortable in one day. It will take time getting used to. Try it out for small amounts each day. Even when you become an ergonomic sitting-pro, you still may want to alternate between different chairs (and standing), throughout the day.