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Everything seems to be labelled ergonomically designed these days. What does that mean?

Ergonomics. If everything is getting to be labelled ergonomics, then what isn’t ergonomical? If the chair that I bought and am now sitting on is labelled ergonomically-designed, why is my body still aching as much as before?

Firstly, ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use. This is according to International Ergonomics Association (http://www.iea.cc). It is the word ‘human’ in the previous sentence that is the problem.

You want to get something that is designed for your use. Not for any old ‘human’. This is a particular problem here in Asia due to the lack of anthropomorphic data for Asians. If you live and work in Asia, you will notice that a large number of our female colleagues dangle their ankle off their ‘ergonomically-designed’ chairs. Why is that? It’s because the chairs are too large for them and their feet can’t reach the floor. If they do try to reach the floor, they most probably will end up sitting at the edge of their chairs, without the back supported by the back-rest. They may else well be sitting on a stool. That’s why your body is still aching as before. A $1,000 stool anyone?

So are the designers of the chair lying or mislabelling them? Not at all. It is just that a large number of chairs are designed based on European or US-based anthropomorphic data. That is, they are designed for people with larger builds. For some ergonomically designed furniture, even at the smallest setting, they may be too large for a small-build Asian lady.

Obviously, getting everything custom-built will be a very expensive proposition. So what can we do? We need to make sure that the furniture is adjustable with enough range to accommodate your build. If it can’t, we may then have to tweak it a little with some improvisation. For example, put a stool beneath your feet to prevent them from dangling while your back is fully supported by the backrest. If a cheap plastic stool is not to your liking, get one custom-made!

Another common fallacy is that people think once they have ergonomically designed furniture like a chair that fits them, they no longer need to worry about caring for their body’s health. Supporting furniture no matter how well designed is still a support. And supports are double-edged swords. Like a wheel-care. Sit on one for long enough you will soon have trouble standing on your own; even if you could walk un-aided before.

So just because that $2,000+ chair feels so comfortable doesn’t mean that you can sit on it for hours at a go without breaks and stretching in between.

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