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How to Choose an Ergonomic Chair

Thursday, April 02, 2009
By Anne Kramer

No piece of office furniture gets more use than the chair. Virtually every task can be completed from the seated position, so people tend to spend an inordinate quantity of time in their desk chairs. Therefore it is critical that the chair not only be comfortable, but also ergonomic with adjustable features. A few simple steps can assist in the seemingly complicated process of choosing the right office chair.

1. Find a comfortable seat that fits your shape.
  • The width of the seat should be at least one inch greater than the hips and thighs on both sides.
  • The seat pan should be the right length. If it is too long, the seat may catch behind the knees or prevent the user from fully leaning back against the lumbar support.
  • A waterfall pan will keep the seat from catching behind the knees.
  • The seat should be contoured, so that weight is distributed evenly.
  • A tilting seat pan is not always necessary, but it can help maintain a balanced sitting posture.
2. Choose a chair that has adjustable height that’s easy to access and operate.
  • The chair should allow the proper sitting position: knees at or slightly below level, with feet flat on the ground.
  • Adjustable height with a pneumatic lift.
  • It is important that the chair be adjustable for any possible user.
  • The best height adjustment apparatus can be operated from the sitting position. This makes it easier to find the proper height quickly.
  • In some cases, a footrest may also be necessary to ensure proper posture.
3. Look for a backrest that provides sufficient support for the back and spine.
  • Sufficient lumbar support is key. Fixed lumbar support is fine if the chair will only have one primary user, but if multiple people will be using the chair, adjustable lumbar support is critical.
  • The chair back should be high enough to provide mid- and upper- back support.
  • Because shifting positions helps to maintain a healthy spine, an ergonomic chair should feature a tilting back, for support in different positions.
4. Select a chair made from high-quality materials
  • The chair covering is an important attribute of a comfortable chair. While vinyl is easy to clean, it can get hot and uncomfortable. Although it is more difficult to clean, cloth covering is more common because it breathes more easily.
  • Low-density foam loses its shape over extended use, and eventually will not provide proper support to the hips and thighs. High-density foam maintains its shape and provides support longer.
5. Decide what other features might be necessary.
  • Although armrests are not the best to use while typing, they do make it easier to assume a resting posture, and to get into and out of the chair. Armrests should be wide and cushioned and adjust low enough as not to interfere with the edge of the desk or keyboard tray. Adjustable armrests are a great feature if multiple people will use the chair.
  • To keep from tipping over, a five-pedestal base is recommended. The addition of castors makes for easy and smoother movement.
  • If a footrest is still necessary, a free-standing, floor mounted model offers the most flexibility. It should allow the feet to rest comfortably out in front of the body.
The right chair prevents injury and promotes comfort. Choosing the correct office chair requires only that one keep in mind basic principles of ergonomics and one’s own comfort.

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