Is Your Office Chair Killing You?

The average American office worker probably spends over 80,000 hours sitting in an office chair over the course of their career. That's bad news for all of the cubicle warriors out there. In addition to the fact that prolonged periods of sitting can aggravate neck and back problems, recent research analyzing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes suggests that the act of sitting shuts down the circulation of a fat-absorbing enzyme called lipase which can inhibit the body's ability to process fat and cholesterol.

Experts suggest taking frequent breaks from sitting to counteract the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. But the reality is that most of us will continue to spend a lot of time sitting at work, so we should at least do it properly.

I recently spoke to Matt Mallouk, category manager for, to learn more about how to improve sitting posture and eliminate some of the problems that poor chair posture can cause.

Reasons to sit properly in your chair at work

Sitting properly at work can help increase productivity, reduce the risk of back pain and arthritis, and promote health. If you've ever been in a work chair that's not the right height for your body or doesn't give the right kind of lumbar support, you know how the resulting back and neck pain can distract you from your work. Ultimately, it can also contribute to headaches and even more doctor's visits. What does that all lead to? More missed work. So the ultimate benefit of proper seating is the opportunity to accomplish more work.

Ways to ensure you are sitting properly at your desk

There are a number of steps that a person can take to sit in a more healthy way. The top of the computer monitor should be at or below eye level to ensure that the neck is in a natural position, free of any strain or stretching. The monitor and keyboard should be centered in front of the person at the workspace. A negative tilt keyboard tray, or wrist rest can be beneficial in reducing wrist and hand strain from typing.

Keeping wrists flat and straight is important, because when wrists are angled upwards to type, it puts additional pressure on those muscles. Keeping arms and elbows close to the body can also help reduce strain.

Making the best of a bad chair in your office

If you can't replace your existing chair, other less expensive remedies are available that can help you create an ergonomically healthy workplace. An articulating keyboard tray can be a less expensive, yet useful ergonomic addition. If you're stuck in a bad chair situation at work, changing postures often, and taking frequent short breaks will help prevent aches and pains. The use of a footrest can be a cost-effective remedy and help provide support to the legs, which is important to reducing the risk of lower back pain. An adjustable footrest with massage balls can help improve circulation to the feet and legs as well.

Choosing the best chair for a home office

Select an ergonomic chair with lumbar support, height adjustable arms, and a headrest. A footrest, keyboard tray, and wrist rest are also good options for the home office. It can also help to work in a slightly reclined position, ideally with a headrest support on the chair. A recent trend in new ergonomic chairs has been to make a chair that supports the user in a variety of postures, even if they don't have good sitting posture. Herman Miller's Embody Chair, Knoll's Generation Chair, and Steelcase's Cobi Chair, all recognize that more support of the user is needed in a variety of postures including the popular "side-sitting" position.

As I'm writing this post, I am realizing that my own chair posture is less than ideal. I'm readjusting my position -- placing my feet firmly on the floor, sitting up straight, and resting my back firmly against the seat. Much better.

Next:Does Your Office Keep You From Getting Work Done? >>


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