Bad posture is an epidemic in modern America, and part of it is because so many Americans spend so much time sitting on their butts. They sit on the couch, they sit in the car, and they sit at work — they do so much sitting that the science of chairs has become a huge part of the science of workplace efficiency. But rather than worry about the workplace, what if we worried about America’s posture? What would the best chair for posture look like?
Posture Isn’t Static…
The first thing you have to recognize when you talk about good posture is that there’s no single “good posture.” The human body isn’t a bridge or some feat of static engineering; we move all the time, and our posture changes from instant to instant. This is true even in our chairs: as much as ergonomists would love us to sit with our feet flat on the floor, forearms and thighs parallel, fingers on the home keys of our keyboards for hours at a time, we simply don’t.
We lean back. We reach for things on the far sides of our desks. We spin in circles while we tackle abstract thought experiments. We pull our legs up — one or both at a time. We rock back and forth to the beat of the latest Timbaland jam while we type up last month’s expense report. We move, and any chair that’s going to attempt to improve our posture has to take that into account.
..But Good Posture is Always the Same
All that said, good posture follows the same single rule all the time. That rule is:
- Minimize stress on the load-bearing parts of your body.
All of those admonishments to ‘stand up straight,’ ‘suck in your gut,’ and ‘chin up’ have the same basic purpose — they’re there to make sure that your spine is properly aligned and well supported. All those rules about keeping your toes pointed straight forward and to walk on your entire foot instead of just the inside or outside edge? Same deal, but supporting your knees and hips.
Back to the Chair Part
When you’re sitting, obviously, you don’t have to worry about your knees and hips (as much). The big problem with sitting is that people are inclined to sit in a variety of ways that completely leave the spine out of alignment and thus over-taxing its ability to support your arms, shoulders, and head. Rolling your hips under and slumping, leaning forward and letting your shoulders droop, sitting on one foot and leaving your hips at an angle — there’s plenty of ways to screw up a good sit.
The best chair for posture is one that will provide the maximum amount of support to the spine and hips, then, while also taking into account the dynamic nature of human posture. In short, it will have a dynamic counterbalancing system that allows the chair to move with you, keeping the spine support next to you even while you lean back, lean forward, and otherwise squirm around in your chair. It will also have all of the standard ergonomic controls (seat back height, seat pan tilt, and so forth) — but those are almost universally standard. Finding a chair that’s dynamically counterbalanced to move with you is the challenge for those people looking to most easily correct their posture.