Ergo Depot's Awesome Blog

Jul 04

Introduction to kneeling chairs

All of us would love the chance to be more active during the day. Unfortunately, the fact for many of us is extended periods of sitting is part of our daily reality. It’s been the norm for so long, it feels like there really isn’t an alternative to sitting in a traditional office chair for eight hours per day. The kneeling chair concept was invented to reduce the amount of damage we do to our bodies during these prolonged periods of sitting. 

The kneeling chair encourages an upright and natural posture, an open hip angle, and proper spine alignment. Sound familiar? The same basic principles that make the saddle seat an excellent option for active sitting are also fundamental components of kneeling chairs. Both the kneeling chair and saddle seat encourage your body to move while seated, they just approach it differently. 

The kneeling chair works by aligning the user’s head, spine, and hips through the ankle while seated. This position not only fully supports the spine without the need for lumbar or back support, but requires the user to regularly readjust and find this natural balance line.

When getting ready to fall asleep tonight, take note of the position of your legs. Chances are you don’t sleep with them at a 90 degree angle in front of you, but rather tucked under you slightly. Kneeling chairs achieve this same posture by tilting the pelvis forward in the chair while supporting the body’s weight with knee pads/platforms.

For those with lower work surface heights a kneeling chair can be a great option to encourage active sitting.

Ergo Depot offers a number of kneeling chairs from the Varier Balans collection. To learn more about which chair might be best for you, give us a call or check out the video below.

Occasionally, clients call us a few days after receiving their HAG Capisco chair, explaining they are experiencing discomfort. This is a completely normal occurrence, and one we refer to as the “Capisco Break-in Period”.

Your normal, everyday task chair affords your body many ways to laze, cheat, slouch, or otherwise cause damage by putting you into positions that are unnatural and unhealthy.  Not so with the Capisco. The Capisco’s unique saddle seat design and patented Balanced Movement Mechanism™ force your body to keep itself in balance. We like to think of it as “Capisco tough love.” The Capisco chair will help your body remember the more natural, and healthy positions to sustainably support itself.

For some users, the Capisco break-in period will last about 2-3 weeks. The discomfort you experience during this period might be felt in the thighs, groin, buttocks, abdomen, lower back and/or the neck-shoulder region. Many people jump in the Capisco saddle and experience no break in period at all. If you are one of those lucky people, congratulations! For the rest of us, the break-in period is a small price to pay for reconnecting with better posture and a healthier lifestyle.

Note:  If you are experiencing pain while using the Capisco chair, this is not normal and we suggest that you contact your dealer immediately.

USA Today released an article on a new report which links sitting too long to breast cancer and colon cancer. While this isn’t news to many of our clients, the health risks of prolonged sitting are slowly creeping their way into the national conscious.

Alpa Patel of the American Cancer Society commented on the study:

In a study of 123,000 people, she found that the more time people spent sitting, the higher their risk of dying early. “Even among individuals who were regularly active, the risk of dying prematurely was higher among those who spent more time sitting,” she says.

Even if you are doing half an hour of aerobic activity a day, you need to make sure you don’t sit the rest of the day, Patel says. “You have to get up and take breaks from sitting.”

We couldn’t agree more.

While it’s tough to step away from your desk during the day, making small adjustments to the way you work is more important than ever.

Jul 03

Active Sitting: Saddle Seats

For more in our active sitting series, click here for our saddle seat introduction, and here for our active sitting introduction. 

It’s probably obvious we’re big fans of the HAG Capisco, but many other saddle seats such as Via’s Swopper, the Varier Move stool, and the Bambach saddle seat offer nearly identical benefits as the Capisco.

The Swopper is one the more fun saddle seats on the market. Its spring mechanism encourages not just movement but actual bouncing. Many users find the Swopper similar to the experience of working on an exercise ball, but without the hassle of pumping it up once a week plus the added flexibility to vary your seat height as needed.

The Varier Move stool is one of the most popular saddle chair options for people with a taller work surface. The Move stool offers the perfect amount of support for workers who want to take a break from standing and perch on their seat for a spell. The concave bottom allows you to lean forward on the saddle, as opposed to just sitting on top of the seat, further opening the hip angle. The Move stool is also designed to encourage repositioning your weight and rebalancing yourself throughout the day. Again, similar to an exercise ball, but actually designed for sitting.

Last, and certainly not least, is the Bambach saddle seat. Specifically designed to minimize many common complaints associated with extended sitting (neck, shoulder, and back pain), this Australian-designed saddle seat is quickly becoming one of our most popular saddle seats. For horse or motorcycle riders the saddle on this chair will feel very familiar. For those of you who are used to slouching your way through your work day, the Bambach saddle seat hardly gives you a chance. 

This all sounds great, but my lower back isn’t in good shape and I don’t think I could make it without lumbar support.

Point well-taken.

The long and short of it is: when your spine is properly aligned, lumbar support (in the form of a backrest) isn’t necessary. That’s not to say sitting back and relaxing is something to be avoided at all costs, but it’s important to recognize why back support is present in traditional task chairs, and absent in most saddle seats and kneeling chairs. When we move away from the 90° sitting angle, to something closer to 130°, the lower part of the spine that creates the “S” shape is able to fully support the upper body. When we are sitting with an 90° angle the pelvis is positioned in a way that straightens out (rather than maintains the curve) this crucial part of our spine.

This advice works for many people, but not for everyone. If you have any type of the medical issue involving the back, hips, or any other area affected while you are seated, we would strongly advise consulting with a medical professional on your specific situation.

Active Sitting: Saddle Seats

How is your active sitting going? While taking more breaks throughout the day seems like a no-brainer, sometimes it’s just impossible to get away from your desk. We receive dozens of calls and emails each week asking what can be done to help alleviate the discomfort of sitting for 8 - 10 hours per day for those who plainly can’t leave their desk as often as they’d like.

Our responses to these questions usually vary depending on what type of work environment someone is in. One option people return to time and again is a saddle seat. And, as users of the HAG Capisco chair we couldn’t agree more.

The American market is catching up to what workers in Europe and Australia have known for years: a flat, deep seat pan isn’t necessarily the best way to work—it’s certainly not the most ergonomic.  

So, what makes a saddle seat a good choice for my new task chair?

Glad you asked.

Saddle seats allow your legs to rest down in front of you rather than positioning the thighs directly in front, parallel to the floor. In other words, the cutouts let gravity do its job on the legs, letting the legs settle downward with the knees ending up below the waist in an open angle position. This position allows you to more evenly distribute your weight throughout the lower half of your body instead of relying on your lower back to keep your spine aligned. An open hip angle encourages proper spine alignment, facilitating not just better posture, but better breathing and circulation.

Saddle seats (along with kneeling chairs) do a remarkable job of helping your spine stay in alignment. Because your body has to work a little bit harder in a saddle seat—keeping your spine aligned properly requires more from your core muscles than a traditional chair—these types of chairs naturally facilitate active sitting without the user thinking much about it throughout the day.

Plus, it just feels better than slouching back in a chair for several hours per day.

We’ll be following up with specific saddle seat recommendations in the next couple days. In the mean time, we’d love to hear what your favorite saddle seat is in the comments.

Update: Our post on specific saddle seats is available here.

Don’t just take our word for it

We love customer reviews of our products. It’s important to us to get feedback on what is working for clients and what needs to be improved.

Luckily for us, we have some of the most thoughtful and articulate clients on the web. We’ve run across different reviews of our electric desks recently, and thought we’d share two of them here.

Jennifer Hull, a writer, is new to the sit/stand desk lifestyle. Jennifer shared her experience with our Light Duty adjustable desk on her blog. Click here to read how she feels about the change.

Jesse Noller, a programmer, wanted to change the way he worked, and decided to invest in an adjustable-height desk as well. Click here for the initial post and then check out the 5-month update.

We’d love to hear customer feedback on any of our products. Feel free to leave a note in the comments section here, or a product review on our site.

Active Sitting: A new way to work

It’s amazing what an evening walk can do to clear your head after a tiring day of work. Moving around after sitting in the same position for several hours in a row almost feels like a luxury. While it’s unlikely the benefits of a family walk can be replicated in the sitting experience in an office chair, there are tools which can help your body feel better at the end of your day.

We are major advocates of Active Sitting. No, that doesn’t mean chair dancing in your cubical—though if you decide to take that up please send us the video footage. What active sitting means to us is the ability to vary your position throughout your work day. Whether that means raising your worksurface so you are able to perch on the edge of your chair, using a saddle seat or kneeling chair for your work, or simply taking more frequent breaks throughout the day—it’s whatever works best for you. 

The idea of “taking breaks” doesn’t sound like it fits into the idea of “active sitting” for some folks. For us at Ergo Depot, we believe that varying your position throughout the day, either in a chair or out, will help your body feel better. By getting up from your desk and taking a walk around the office or the block, your blood will oxygenate, improving your mental acuity and attention span. Of course, after your break it’s tough to plop down in the chair that gave you those leg cramps and lower back pain to begin with.

There are, of course, ways of avoiding the discomfort that comes from sitting in a traditional office chair for 40 hours per week: Don’t sit in one! Alternative seating options such as saddle seats and kneeling chairs are making their way into offices across the country and users are finding their bodies responding well to the change.

Tune in next week to find out why a saddle chair could be the change your body needs to stay focused throughout the day.

Neils Diffrient: American Innovator

You don’t just wake up one morning and design one of the best-selling office chairs of all time. No, of course not. 

You design sewing machines, airplane seats, plus the John Deere tractor and spend some time teaching at the best American universities first.

Well, if you’re Neils Diffrient, now 83-years old, that’s how you’d structure a six-decade long career as one of America’s best-known and most respected industrial designers. 

It’s hard to imagine a world of ergonomics without the contributions of Niels Diffrient. In 1955 Diffrient  x-rayed the spine in a chair to see first-hand the effects of office chairs on our bodies, becoming the first American designer to examine the needs of the body rather than the needs of the office environment:

“For a chair, you have to learn a lot about how to deal with the body and what the body needs and wants….The one thing [office workers] don’t need is a chair that interferes with their main reason for sitting [in the office], so I took the approach that the chair should do as much for them as humanly possible…so that they didn’t have to fuss with it.”

The result is the iconic Freedom task chair, one of Humanscale’s best-selling products for the past decade. By eliminating manual adjustments Diffrient created a new standard in ergonomics, one where the user exerts minimal effort in order to enjoy the many features of the Freedom task chair. The Freedom chair adjusts to each user’s weight using the intelligent counterbalance mechanism. From adjustable arm rests to a position-sensitive headrest that automatically moves out of the way when sitting upright, the adjustments are not just automatic, but numerous on the Freedom chair.

Diffrient often cites “restraint” and “efficiency” as his primary focus in his design. While many contemporary designers begin with a sketch of the final product, Diffrient begins his work on the chair mechanism—the function—before concerning himself with the aesthetics of the chair.

Discussing his newest chair design, the Diffrient World chair by Humanscale, he calmly and with a remarkable sense of lucidity dismisses the idea that a chair should be seductive or compelling. Again he explains favoring function over form: “It’s more important to stick around, that’s part of efficiency.” He explains that his newest chair design did not come to him in the form of a “thunderbolt” but rather after “years of practice and focus.”

Considering Diffrient’s proclivity for and emphasis on efficient, functional design, it’s remarkable that he’s been so successful in creating stylistically iconic chairs for the past two decades. What’s more, the rest of America’s industrial designers could take his commitment to efficiency, not just in design but in manufacturing, as a challenge to simplify their own designs. Touching on what he calls his “old fashion term: efficiency,” Diffrient explains how this goal is not only beneficial for the chair’s user, but for the environment:

 "Efficiency was around and answering a lot of our needs long before this focus on the environment. If one makes one’s approach to design to be efficient, it includes all of the factors all of the factors needed to be environmentally responsible.”

It’s truly hard to imagine an 83-year old who is more ahead of his time than Niels Diffrient. With his newest and perhaps most impressive chair now available, we’d encourage anyone who values efficiency, fantastic design and a commitment to the environment to check out the Diffrient World chair by Humanscale.


Niels Diffrient TED Talk

Niels Diffrient Humanscale Page

Diffrient World Chair Video

Jul 02


Kneeling Chairs, the Balans collection

The Balans kneeling chair collection by Variér is one of the most enduring ergonomic designs of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Beginning with the original Balans design, The Variable Balans, Peter Opsivik pioneered the way we think about sitting by encouraging the body to move while seated. Furthermore, by sitting in a kneeling position the body is encouraged to sit upright, helping to support the natural s-shaped curve of the spine.

The Variable, Thatsit, Wing, and Multi Balans chairs serve the user in slightly different capacities, so we thought we’d make a video demonstrating the differences between these iconic kneeling chairs. If you have any questions about these Variér kneeling chairs, please contact the kneeling chair experts at Ergo Depot.