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Sit Right Stand Properly
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Sit Right Stand Properly

Today’s ergonomic furniture does more than provide comfort while you sit or stand at work.

It is unquestionable that we spend a lot of time at work, and those in more sedentary jobs are seated for long stretches at a time.

Health experts warn that prolonged sitting increases cancer risk. They say that sitting for a mere one to two hours without breaks compresses the spine, which leads to many medical problems in the back. “The human body is meant to be physically active; degeneration of muscles will occur when there is a lack of muscular stimulation in the form of regular movement or exercise,” affirms Hawk Liu, a sports masseur. “For example, when a person frequently sits for long periods, the body senses that its bones do not need to be dense enough to carry the body weight in its legs and therefore directs less calcium to the leg bones. Your leg bones will get weaker and may fracture easily from an accident or fall. With the lack of movement of the whole body, muscles that control posture and movement will also reduce in size and sensitivity. The lack of agility may result in falls.”

With the issue of how employee health and well-being affect productivity being a concern for many companies across the globe, it is important to have the right furniture for staff.

Hear from an expert

Liu, who has close to two decades’ experience as a sports masseur, practises deep tissue and muscular rehabilitation massage. He has an honours degree from the Department of Human Movement, Faculty of Science, University of Western Australia. Here, he answers FAQs about ergonomic furniture.

What is the approach when buying furniture - desk or chair - if one suffers from orthopaedic issues?

Before buying, know your physical limitations or difficulties, and abilities in using any furniture. Consider one’s ability to stand up or sit down, lift or move arms or legs, turn the body a certain way to reach objects, lift or replace objects (especially if they are heavy). Then consider the design of the furniture, whether it aids or impedes your physical limitations.

Any tips when buying an office chair?

Look for a chair with a slightly convex back as it is better for lower back support.

When seated, your legs should never be left dangling in the air. If the seat is too high, the back of the thighs is under a lot of pressure (especially if you are overweight). The compression on the thighs will result in poor blood circulation. The sciatic nerve to the legs can be impinged, too. You should be able to put your feet comfortably flat on the ground, which will support the weight of your legs. The more the legs dangle, the harder it is for blood from the legs to return to the heart.

Choose a chair seat with a larger surface area for the buttocks to rest and move.

What are three important tips when buying a desk?

The height is important because it determines how one holds the posture of the spine and the head (the head and shoulders should not be hunched to look at the screen). Unless one stands at the table, high table tops are not advisable. It’s better to have the table low enough so your arms and elbows can rest on it. This helps to support the body weight, too.

What’s your advice when working for prolonged hours at the desk?

Don’t sit for too long at any one stretch. Always take breaks (at least 10 minutes for every hour), stand up and walk around.

Let’s look at some of today’s furniture designs that provide much-needed comfort and support for your spine, back and lumbar.

Office chairs and lounge chairs

Choosing the right ergonomic chair for your office - whether it is located at home or in a commercial building - can make a significant difference to your health and comfort. As mentioned, sitting for extended periods can take a toll on your spine health, resulting in chronic back issues and, at times, unbearable discomfort. These models should be able to offer relief on that front:

Herman Miller Aeron chair This was designed in 1992 by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf for Herman Miller. The new version still defines ergonomic comfort more than 25 years after its debut. The chair’s PostureFit SL technology affords the ideal seat — chest open, shoulders back, and pelvis tilted slightly forward. Adjustable pads provide lumbar support and stabilise the base of the spine for the perfect balance of ergonomics and comfort. It is suitable for extended periods of use because of the support as well as the use of breathable materials.

Markus swivel chair The chair allows you tosit upright and adjust your height such that the computer screen is at your eye’s height or at the level of your natural gaze. You can adjust yourself - thanks to armrests - such that your arms are resting with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, with your hands just above the keyboard. The adjustable and lockable tilt function increases stability and control in different sitting positions. Your back also gets the support and extra relief from the built-in lumbar support.

Coza office chair A collaboration between designer Martin Ballendat and Boss Design, this took more than two years of research. This task chair does away with manual user adjustment. Instead, it offers comfort and dynamic support - its bespoke, polymer structure offers eight degrees of recline from the seat, and up to 16 degrees from the back. The frame is finished with an anti-static, heat-resistant lacquer.

Saba Italia New York lounge chair If you need to work from a chair affording a lounge position, consider this. Its well-padded lumbar, backrest and armrest will cosset you comfortably. A sloped seat ensures your spine does not exert a 90-degree pressure as you sit back.

Hag Capisco 8106 chair This ingenious chair is made for greater freedom of movement, and a variety of seating positions. It gives you an upright posture and ensures the natural curvature of your lower back. It also makes it easy to get into the semi-standing position - perfect for shifting between sitting and standing with an adjustable desk.

Adjustable desks

According to the Ergonomics Now website, reversing the effects of prolonged sitting is as easy as standing up. “This is why Height Adjustable Desks or Sit/Stand Desks are becoming more and more popular.”

These desks allow users to alternate between sitting and standing positions. Regularly transitioning between these two positions at work adjusts the amount of load put on the body, ensuring specific parts are at rest at some time, thus reducing the risk factors of static muscle fatigue.

Bekant desk sit/stand This versatile desk allows you to electronically adjust the top to varying heights of 65–125cm.

Holmris Milk desk This comes in three iterations:

  • W140cm x D82cm x H73–123cm (Milk Classic)
  • W180cm x D82cm x H73–123cm (Milk Grande)
  • W120cm x D47cm x H73–109cm (Mini Milk)

The top comes in high-gloss white, and you can choose between fixed or electric height adjustment.

Magis 360° table Designed by Konstantin Grcic for Italian brand Magis in 2010, this offers an aesthetic akin to old technical drafting machines. Its central column has a mechanism to allow the table top to be adjusted to a height between 73 and 95cm. The base features die-cast aluminium, and the top is made of lacquered medium-density fibreboard.

TIPS WHEN BUYING AN ERGONOMIC OFFICE CHAIR

1. Ensure that the height is fully adjustable. The seat should cater to different body heights and allow you to shift upwards or downwards. An adjustable seat height of 38–56cm caters to a body height of 152–182cm. It is important that your feet are flat on the floor and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

2. Check that elements can be adjusted individually. Armrests, the seat and back supports should be able to move independently of one another, thereby ensuring that the chair offers a good fit for any body shape and height.

3. Ensure that the chair gives adequate upper and middle back support, especially if you are seated for prolonged periods. This prevents injury to and strain on the muscles supporting your upper and middle spine. An ideal backrest should be 30–48cm.

4. Lumbar support in a chair is also critical. If a chair’s backrest is not curved, it can cause your lower back to flatten. The lower back’s inward curve is essential for supporting the spine. A well-designed ergonomic chair with lumbar support allows you to raise or lower the chair’s back support pad.

5. Get a backrest that can be adjusted or reclined as this can reduce the amount of weight placed on your lower back, hence relieving pressure on your spinal discs. Health experts advise that back pressure is lower when the recline is 110–130 degrees.

6. Consider if the seat is the right size for you. Seats that are too small or big can affect your comfort and health. The ideal one should be an inch wider than your hips, and the seat rim positioned just behind your knees. A seat that is too long forces your knees to tilt up when seated, which impairs comfort.

7. Seat padding is often overlooked. You want one made of a highquality foam that can cuddle your buttocks and thighs and spring back to its former shape when you leave the seat. Poor-quality foam can lead to many health issues, such as misalignments in the back and hips.

8. Always try out the chair before purchase. Assess if all the features can meet your needs and comfort.

9. Other elements of an ergonomic chair include:

  • casters that allow the chair to move freely and easily
  • headrest to cushion your neck and head
  • footrest to compensate for the chair’s height if it is too high
  • fabric seats that allow your thighs and buttocks to breathe
  • chair bases with four or five spokes for added stability

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