Your seat matters!

A 2013 survey[1] found that some 86% of working Americans sit all day. And about 70% of them hate it. Most of us know that prolonged sitting leads to health problems. We’re advised to get up and move around more often. One other widespread but frequently unappreciated problem is failing to sit properly. Prolonged sitting in a poor posture is a sure-fire recipe for back and other problems.

How we sit and what we sit on is just as important as how long we sit.

The ergonomics lab at Cornell University[2] defines the purpose of sitting is “to remove weight from the feet and maintain a stable posture so muscles not directly involved with the work can relax.” However, we often find ourselves in a position of “postural stress.” Classic symptoms are fidgeting, crossing and uncrossing the legs, discomfort and even pain.

While we can blame ourselves for poor posture, the seat itself often adds to the problem. Ideally, we’ll use a seat that encourages our best posture instead of detracting from it. As we saw in a previous blog post, the goal is to achieve a neutral posture that maintains our spine’s natural S-curve. Proper seat height at a workstation also enables us to keep our forearms parallel to the worksurface.

Choosing the right seat is just as important as choosing the right workstation.

As the diagram on the left suggests, an ergonomically correct seat is a fairly complex piece of engineering. Factors such as height and tilt adjustability, cushion and back support, seat depth, and backrest height are all crucial design elements.

The Cornell lab observes that “optimum seat height is controversial.” A minimum seat height of 15” with a 9” adjustment range is ideal. The seat pan should be about 14” to 18.5” deep. But if it’s too deep, the seat’s occupant can’t use the backrest. Cornell recommends seat widths between 20” to 22.” [The average airline economy seat is around 16” to 17”, so it’s easy to see why flying is not always a comfortable experience!]

Good seat cushion design matters!

As the diagram below shows, cushioning needs to provide different levels of support in different areas of the seated body. Cornell states that the “cushion should be firmer in back and thicker while less firm and thinner at front.” Too much cushioning gives a false sense of comfort and eventually lowers blood circulation, which actually increases discomfort and fidgeting.

Armrests provide additional “postural support” and aid getting up out of the seat.

Most office tasks performed at a desk call for a medium-level backrest about 26” high that provides full shoulder support. Seating for tasks performed at greater workstation heights such as in labs or assembly areas usually call for lower backrests between 5” and 9”.

Given that every persons’ physique varies, seat height and back support adjustability are crucial requirements for any task that demands hours of sitting.

Workplace Seating Solutions

All these variables are why Workplace Modular Systems offers a wide variety of seat solutions tailored for its wide variety of workstations. In addition to adjustability, each Workplace seat offers a host of ergonomic design and construction features that enable you to choose the perfect seat for your workstation.

Although we may be sitting around longer than we like, let’s minimize the discomfort and reduce the potential for physical problems. And even with the perfect seating solution don’t forget to get up and move around!

[1] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html accessed 5/2/17

[2] http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/dea3250flipbook/dea3250notes/sitting.html accessed 5/2/17