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If you work at a computer, you may be wondering: what’s the best office chair for long hours?
Sitting is terrible for us. According to research, prolonged sitting increases your risk for 34 chronic conditions, among them cancer, diabetes, obesity, and, of course, cardiovascular disease.
Ack. That’s no good. But you can’t exactly quit your job and run away into the woods, never to be seen again, can you?
So what’s a person who has to sit at a computer supposed to do? What’s the best office chair for combating these sitting-related diseases?
- Computer Posture: How to Work At A Desk All Day Without Destroying Your Back
- The Ten Commandments of Sitting In Front of a Computer (Follow These If You Don’t Want to Wind Up With a Petrified Spine)
- If You Must Sit At A Computer, At Least Do This…
From stability ball chairs to standing and even treadmill desks, employees are seeking ways to insert more movement into their work days.
Move over, ergonomic desk chairs! There’s a new player in town…
Active seating is a novel approach to workplace ergonomics that inserts movement into an otherwise sedentary day. Whether you sit or stand, incorporating active seating into your workday can help you to improve your posture, activate core muscles and maximize focus.
The Best Office Chair Might Be A Little Shaky
Active, or dynamic, seating just means that whatever you’re sitting on is designed to keep your muscles more engaged. After a lifetime of perching on static chairs and walking around on flat, stable land, most people have atrophied postural muscles and compromised balance.
The best office chair might not actually be a chair at all…
Stools that wobble, such as the Kore Stool, use instability to “wake up” your brain’s balance and coordination center. It’s far more effective as a tool to activate postural muscles than simply instructing a person to hold their body in a certain position because it works with the body’s inherent need to stay upright.
If your body senses that you are off balance, it will work to find a way to stabilize you. Therefore, instability increases the engagement of little micro-muscles in your core and spine that are difficult to consciously contract.
Wobble Stools vs. Stability Balls: Which Is Better?
If you’ve decided that the best office chair for you is one that incorporates active seating, you might be wondering: are stability balls or wobble stools better?
As a posture and movement therapist, I’m frequently asked about the difference between the Kore Stools (which I have and use in my office) and a yoga or stability ball. Stability balls are cheaper and more readily available, so naturally people want to know if they’re an adequate substitute for the wobble stool.
I recommend against sitting on a stability ball for work.
Not only are they often too small and short for most people, they’re also very soft. Soft surfaces cause your pelvis to rock backwards positioning your weight over your sacrum rather than on your much more stable pelvis.
This forces your spine into a c-curvature (think: banana), which overloads the discs and fatigues your muscles, resulting in spinal degeneration and pain.
All in all, this is not an ideal sitting posture.
A Kore Stool, on the other hand, combines support with instability in the perfect ratio. The stool itself is firm (although the seat is padded, so you’re not sitting on a wooden plank), but the bottom is rounded so that the stool moves when you do.
This gives you both the support your pelvis needs as well as the ability to move, which keeps your legs and core active while you sit.
How to Introduce Active Seating Into Your Workday
The first time you sit on a wobble stool, you might feel a little…well, unbalanced!
While that’s kind of the point, it’s natural to be a bit disconcerted by all the movement at first. I have two Kore Stools in my office, and typically the first time someone sits on one, they think it’s broken.
Usually, people are so accustomed to sitting on flat, immobile furniture that they have no idea how to properly keep their bodies active on a wobble stool. Fortunately, with a few quick tips, you’ll be ready to go and enjoy the benefits of active seating.
Here are five keys to getting the most out of your Kore Stool:
1. Perch, don’t “plop.”
When you sit on fixed furniture, it’s easy to collapse your body into the chair and let your muscles go slack. This is what makes sitting so deadly. After just a few minutes of sitting, enzymes that dissolve fats in your bloodstream virtually disappear as electrical activity in your muscles drops to practically zero.
This is where the Kore Stool comes in. Your wobble stool keeps these muscles engaged and at least somewhat active while you sit, but the instability factor means you can’t rely on the stool alone to hold you up.
Rather than “plop” down onto the stool and let your body go slack, think about “perching” your pelvis on the chair to support some of your weight.
This also works with standing desks. Most people find that standing in place all day can fatigue their feet and back, especially if they’re not used to it. Perching on a Kore Stool that has been extended to standing desk height is a great way to work toward standing for longer periods while still giving your feet some relief.
2. Keep the seat higher than your knees.
Just like sitting on a too-soft surface, having your chair — or stool — seat lower than the height of your knees will cause your pelvis to rock backwards, placing undue pressure on your sacrum and spine (and ultimately straining your neck and shoulders while also causing lower back pain).
Simply raising your stool until the seat places your hips a few inches above your knees allows you to sit more forward on the two pointy bones at the base of your pelvis — often referred to as your “sitting bones.” You can then more easily stack your shoulders over your hips without straining or hyperextending your lower back.
3. Lift your chest.
You probably know that your shoulders are rounded too far forward, but try as you might, they just don’t seem to want to stay back where they belong. This is because your shoulders actually rest on your rib cage, which determines their alignment.
If your sternum — or breastbone — is sunken due to a collapsed core, your shoulders will hunch forward no matter how hard you try to pin them in place. But, magically, if you lift your chest up and forward, your shoulders will naturally relax into place without much effort.
You’ll also find that it becomes easier to balance on your Kore Stool with a lifted chest that “stacks” your shoulders over your hips.
4. Place feet on the floor, one in front of the other.
Keeping your feet on the floor is a good way to support your lower back. While a lot of sitting advice centers around bracing your core muscles, I’m not a fan of this approach.
A braced core doesn’t allow your spine to bend and twist, which it needs to do in order to absorb your body’s motion. If your core is too tight, then you’re setting yourself up for back problems down the road.
Of course, some core engagement is good. You don’t want your abdominal muscles to be asleep at the wheel. But they can’t do all the work, either. Keeping your feet on the floor assists your core muscles in supporting your body and makes maintaining upright posture easier.
For bonus points, place one foot about six inches in front of the other. This “rocker stance” supports your weight as you lean forward and backward, which is ideal for working at a computer.
5. Lean with your whole body.
Static chairs force your body to bend at the waist when you lean or reach for a pen. But the Kore Stool moves with your body, which simultaneously keeps your muscles more active while also taking the burden off of your back.
When you reach or lean, allow the stool to rock forward and your weight to shift into your feet (which should be on the floor, per number four, above). This holds your body in better alignment while keeping the large muscles of your legs awake and online.
The Bottom Line On The Best Office Chair
If you’re looking for the best office chair for long hours spent sitting, I highly recommend you give wobble stools — and the tips above — a try.
While adapting to using active seating in your workplace can take some time, following these five tips should have you enjoying active seating and your new Kore Stool in no time.5