There’s a lot of different kinds of ‘good posture.’ If you’re a dancer, it might mean something completely different on and off the stage. If you’re a Beefeater, you’ve got ‘on duty’ and ‘off duty’ posture. If you sit at a desk all day, you need a different set of postural responses when you’re at work then you do at home on your couch. When you’re setting up your office, getting the best chair for posture at a desk will help you maintain work efficiency over several weeks by minimizing discomfort and back pain.
Is There A Single ‘Best’ Chair for Sitting Posture?
Well..no. Or rather, if there is, science hasn’t really studied the problem in a way that leads to a single product. What we do have, however, is some basic rules that all of the best chairs for posture at work follow. They need to be adjustable on the macro scale, able to be tuned to the precise body shape of the user, and on the micro scale, able to move on the fly as the sitter moves so that they maintain the best postural support structure even as the user shifts and settles.
The big picture of office chair adjustment is pretty well defined at this point. Almost every office chair in the USA has the basic controls on the right side, below your butt. Those controls will allow you to:
- Adapt the Chair to Your Height by moving the butt rest and the armrests up and down until you can put your butt into the seat and your hands on your keyboard, and have both your forearms and thighs parallel to each other and to the ground. Part of this process also involves adjusting the depth of the seat pan so that your lumbar region is up against the relevant support and the seat ends just shy of the backs of your knees.
- Adapt the Chair to Your Back Shape by adjusting the seat back of the chair. Most often, you can move the seat back upwards and downwards so that the lumbar support curve of the chair back is protruding directly into your lumbar area. Some chairs take it to the next level and offer adjustable depth of support (essentially, you can turn a knob to make the lumbar support area wider); still others allow you to rotate the back of the chair just slightly so that you can get firmer support on one side than on the other.
- Adapt the Chair to your Leg Shape by tilting the butt rest slightly forward or backwards (independently of the back of the chair, preferably.) This will allow you, if you have particularly thick things for example, to keep your thigh bones parallel with the ground, even given that the tops of your thighs are twice as wide as the bottoms.
The ‘little picture’ is a very different deal than the big ergonomic controls, because the micro-scale adjustment more or less have to happen automatically, or they would become insanely annoying to perform constantly. People don’t sit still in chairs, even the best chair for sitting posture can’t force that to happen. So to keep your posture proper, the chair has to move when you move, keeping the lumbar support and other posture support elements in place as you lean back, lean forward, and move about without standing up.
Such chairs totally exist — the system that allows it is called a ‘dynamic counterbalance,’ and it’s not even surprisingly expensive. You just have to know what to ask for — and now, you do.