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Ergonomics, a way of life that's sustainable
Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 13:54


This is a bit of a departure from our normal reviews. Whilst I will be describing several products and making comments about them, my main focus will be upon you, the reader.

I will being putting information before you in the hope of improving your computing experience. My own experiences in this area have led me to want to, if I may, spare my fellows at lest some of my trials. Negligence has it's consequence.

In recent years we as a culture have been subjected to enormous change in the way we use, and neglect, our poor bodies. We simply are not well suited to the rigid upright straight-backed chairs (quite often without proper adjustments for support) that we plop ourselves into for long hours at a stretch.

We to often become involved in our work and neglect proper adjustments, despite knowing that correct placement of a monitor and keyboard can reduce eye, arm, shoulder and neck fatigue.

My first stop will be the chair. After searching and reading for days, I came across two chairs that seem to fit the bill rather well.  I'm not so much recommending them (though I do) as putting them before the reader as examples of what a good chair should strive to be.  Both are "feature rich".

To save time (mine) I'll be sending you here and there to look at stuff I want you to see.  But before we get into the products, I want to re-introduce you to our goals. Cornell University seems a good place to begin, so I will ask you to go thither and read "Ergonomic Guidelines for arranging a Computer Workstation - 10 steps for users".

If you spend a few minutes reading that guide, it will help focus on what we are trying to achieve with this article — longer and healthier years spent computing.

Now, I would like to direct you to a specific area of computing ergonomic concern, the chair and how to choose one.  Since we will be going shopping, it's a good idea to learn all we can about what constitutes a good or a great chair. As you will read, this is not always the same for everyone....The Chair

I would also highly recommend spending time with Professor Alan Hedge's "ERGONOMIC SEATING EVALUATION FORM"; it's a PDF and can save your spine!

I found quite a few surprises!  A lot of what we think we know about this is pure rubbish!  It's great to get the facts straight, especially if you're in pain! A worthwhile read!

If you're taking this trip with me, we should now be ready to look at two chairs.  Each has its strong points, both have their weaknesses (in my view, which can hardly be the final one when you're buying a chair!) ":O}

Aeron Chair

The first chair I want you to see is the Aeron Chair. This chair is really something to behold! Named "Design of the Decade" by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and Business Week Magazine".

Aeron Chair

Now to bring you back down to Earth, I found this E-tailor to be well priced and reliable at the time of purchase. They also offer better pictures than the manufacturer. ":O}

Prepare yourself for sticker shock! Also be aware that there are constant "Specials" that substantially reduce price as well as shipping costs.

The Aeron chair is an experiment in excellence. It is every bit as beautiful up close and personal as it is in pictures. Since trying out this chair I've seen it EVERYWHERE! It's on TV and in movies usually when they wish to reinforce an image of well-to-do corporate types.

It functions! Everything on it works as it should. It meets as many of the ergonomic design criteria as any I looked at. But it is not the chair for me. It isn't? But it's so beautifully designed and built! I still smile when I think about how sad it made me to let go of it!!  Here's what did it in, for me.

"Comfortable Suspension, healthful support. The strong Pellicle suspension system distributes weight evenly over the seat and back. Form-fitting. The Pellicle conforms to each person's shape and minimizes pressure."

I would have loved to keep this chair, but I found that the longer I sat in it, the more uncomfortable I became. The material used is a thin plastic-like fabric. Living in the USA Northwest and working in coolish computer environments, I found my behind sore and my body cold when sitting in it. While I can see this would be of some advantage in warmer climates (as it's quite breathable fabric) in a colder environment, I found myself avoiding my chair. Every thing about it was of reasonable comfort, but the seat was just too hard.

So I went back to Sit4less, asked for and got an immediate RMA. Good news for me! Did you see those prices!? We talked, the salesmen wisely agreed with everything I had to say.":O} I reordered.

Leap Chair

"Leap Chair":  "Why buy a chair that's been sat in by 732 people?!! Because it took 732 test participants, 11 studies, 4 universities and 27 scientists to create the Leap® Chair."

Leap Chair

Like the Aeron the Leap has an army of researchers and ergonomic scientists swarming around it. Ergonomics is taking off in a big way. Employers are slow to learn, but as the medical bills climb ever higher, they are starting to get the message. Our work place environments are hurting us!

The first link has several excellent PDF's to help the consumer to get an idea of what this chair is about.

Sit4less helps us understand the financial reality of proper seating. BTW both of these chairs are what are known as 24/7 seats. They are made to endure. Each manufacturer will replace every part on its chair as needed by the customer over time. Sit4less pricing was, at the time of purchase, very competitive.

I went for the Leap. It had two features that made this a done deal. The first was its seat.  Though hardly plush, it was decently padded. It slides forward and back at least 5" in its adjustment.  Once the depth has been set, the seat slides in conjunction with the back of the chair, allowing your hips to slide forward as your back reclines, thus allowing the seated to maintain the distance of one's hands from the keyboard while sitting up straight or reclining (I'm typing now in a fully reclined position).  I change positions effortlessly a dozens of times though out the day.  I just changed position without pausing in my typing... No easy thing to describe! ":O}

I hope I've gotten a few of you thinking about the chairs you sit in and what it will be like a few years down the line if that chair isn't doing the job for you.

Just so you know (as you have the right to know) I paid out of pocket and AOA neither sought nor received any consideration for products or sites mentioned in this and the follow up article which will cover monitors, monitors placement and of most concern to this endeavor, LCD Monitor arms and extensions... till next we meet...":O}

Please feel free to discuss this in the forum.


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