An ergonomic chair is a chair designed in the way it provides maximum comfort during sitting and properly supports the posture, weight and lumbar while sitting.
Though design-wise, ergonomic chairs cater to a range of people, one may need to try more than one model to find a design that suits.
Moreover, chairs may not suit every task or arrangement in a particular setup or workstation.
A chair has to suit the body dimensions of the user and his workplace.
Modern life is sedentary and most of the jobs are done in this posture only. We keep sitting all day, from the breakfast table, during travel to work or school, meetings, and offices, dinner and television watching.
Working in an office typically involves spending a great deal of time sitting in an office chair – a position that adds stress to the structures in the spine. Therefore, to avoid developing or compounding back problems, it’s important to have an office chair that’s ergonomic and that supports the lower back and promotes good posture.
Things to Consider When Selecting Ergonomic Chair
If you are considering purchasing an ergonomic chair, it implies that you are health aware and want to take preventive steps for better sitting.
Or you may already be suffering from an ailment like back pain or neck pain and want to reduce the risk that comes with improper sitting.
Thus selecting an ergonomic chair is critical to prevent health problems in people who work in a sitting position.
From an ergonomics point of view, sitting is deemed as a specific, specialized activity that is influenced by the way that person interacts with the working environment.
There is no single solution for everyone in the name of ergonomics. One chair does not fit everyone. Every user needs to select a chair based upon his or her condition and body dimensions. Choosing the right type and size of the chair would avoid straining a part of the body while fitting another.
Similarly, different objectives require different kinds of chairs. For example, a dentist would have different requirements than a computer operator.
Before you buy an ergonomic chair, the following things need to be considered for a good chair.
- Height should suit the range of user from short to tall
- Height of the seat should be adjustable
- There should be the adjustable backrest
- The chair should be stable. A chair with a five-point base is preferable
- The selected chair should make the job of the user better. For example, armrests should be present If the user is a computer operator and chair would be used for that purpose.
- The ergonomic chair should not make the job of the person more difficult. Anything in the chair that may do so needs to be addressed.
Features of a Conventional Ergonomic Chair
The height of the chair especially if it is an office chair should be easily adjustable by means of a manual or motorized lever. A range of chair height for most people sitting in an office is generally between 15-20 inches allowing the sitter to keep feet flat on the floor, thighs horizontal and arms at the desk height.
Another way to calculate the seat height is that it should be about one-fourth of the body height. But the
The optimal seat height is about one-quarter of the body height. But the difference could arise from different torso to leg ratio of different people.
Also, the seat should be wide enough and has enough depth [the distance from front to back] to support any user comfortably.
A width of 17-20 inches is recommended.
The depth should be enough to allow the person to sit with his or her back against the backrest of the chair and still leaving approximately 2 to 4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair.
The chair should be tiltable forward or backward as required.
The ergonomic chair should support the lower back. If there is no lumbar support, one tends to slouch on prolonged sitting which strains the other structures in the lower spine.
Moreover, there should be a lumbar adjustment so that the person can make desired adjustments on sitting.
It should be about 12-19 inches wide. The backrest should accommodate the curve of the spine well. The lumbar curve is convex forward and the thoracic curve is convex on backward.
The backrest should be adjustable in forward and back angles,
The armrests of the ergonomic chair should be adjustable to allow the user’s arms to rest comfortably and shoulders to be relaxed.
For office chairs, the elbows and arms should rest on the armrest but the forearm should not be on the armrest while one types.
Rotation or Swivel
The chair should easily rotate to enable the user to reach different areas without straining herself.
There should be enough padding to sit comfortably for an extended period. It must be reminded that extended continuous sitting is hazardous for health.
But a chair should be comfortably padded when the need for prolonged sitting arises.
A cloth fabric that breathes adds to comfort.
Other Types of Ergonomic Chairs
There are new designs of ergonomic chairs and we would briefly touch them. As compared to conventional ergonomic chairs, these have been specially designed to support, comfort, and promote good posture.
Some of these ideas may seem atypical but after one is used to their idea, they are actually comfortable.
These chairs are claimed to be of benefit for back pain as they take part of the load on the back.
Kneeling Ergonomic Chair
This chair uses a modified kneeling position for sitting. In this chair, there is no back. It has a forward-slanting seat that leads to a more natural position for the spine
One sits by sliding the hips forward and aligning the back, shoulders, and neck.
The legs are bent at the knee and placed at the shin support below.
The idea is to distribute the weight between the pelvis and the knees. Therefore it could be useful for back pain and conditions which require a decrease of spinal loading.
Saddle Ergonomic Chair
A saddle chair is in the shape of a horse’s saddle. Its base is on casters so that moving around is easy and height can be easily adjusted using a lever.
Some saddle chairs have backrests, but most do not.
The position on this chair is somewhere between sitting and standing.
This chair allows legs to drop and widen which creates a stable posture.
With long term use, it can even strengthen the back muscles.
The idea behind this design is to eliminate some of the issues experienced with a traditional chair such as circulation system problems and slouching forward.
Exercise Ball Ergonomic Chair
This chair is to encourage movement and active sitting and can be used as a desk chair or computer chair.
The chair consists of a sturdy ball. There is an option of putting on a stable base and backrest.
The slight bouncing movement due to the shape of the chair stimulates the circulation and keeps muscle slightly working.
Thus fatigue and stress are reduced.
Slouching is difficult and posture is improved.
This could be the most relaxing chair for the back and most comfortable. It could be modified to carry out different works in a reclined position. Like small tables can be attached for paperwork or laptop use.
How Effective is an Ergonomic Chair
The purpose of buying an ergonomic chair is to sit in a balanced position. But the chair is just a means and one needs to remember to sit properly.
For work, the chair is just one component. Other parts of workplace ergonomics need to be considered in the workstation design.
For example, footrest, work surface, document holders, task lighting etc. Not everyone needs everything and the station should be customized to individual needs.
Prolonged sitting needs to be avoided on the ergonomic chair as well. Therefore it is always prudent to take frequent breaks during work.
One should get up every 45-60 minutes. An hourly reminder on the phone would nudge you.
Not only frequent breaks encourage stronger posture but also relieve strain on the eyes, and reduce fatigue.