Recently, the Associated Press distributed an article about how “sitting too much could be deadly.” A number of regional newspapers, including my hometown Chicago Tribune picked it up. As a furniture industry veteran and seating researcher for the better part of two decades, it was too broad—and dire—a statement for my personal comfort.
In helping designers like Bill Stumpf and Jeff Weber to develop Herman Miller products—from stacking chairs, such as Caper, to high-performance work chairs, such as Embody—I’ve learned that sitting, comfort, and health are not so cut-and-dried.
In the 1990s I began using pressure map technology, which visualizes what the seat and sitter interface looks like—and how it changes depending on seat construction and the posture of the sitter. These changes translate to comfort or discomfort for the user.
More recently, in the course of our Embody chair development, I commissioned researchers at both the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Milwaukee’s Marquette University, who measured the amount of oxygen in the blood flowing to and from subjects’ lower extremities and heart rate–key health measures. It turns out, both improved when users sat in the Embody chair, versus other chairs, doing the same seated tasks in both.
So, it’s not a simple question of sitting down or standing up—but where and how you’re sitting.