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Can chair design make sitting healthier?

Posting in Design

As someone who spends most of the work day in the seated position, I cringe when I read headlines like this: "Sitting all day worse than smoking." But it isn't just offices and home offices where sitting all day is a problem. Schools are also places where children are required to sit for hours a day (I'm sure there are some forward-thinking exceptions). We know sitting is bad for us, but are there healthier alternatives for children (and adults) that don't require all-day recess? A new line of school furniture might be the answer.

Ray, an ergonomic line of school furniture designed by Irish industrial designer Simon Dennehy and his firm Perch, is gaining popularity in Scandinavia for their "self-support" design that keeps feet and core muscles stimulated while you're sitting. Fast Company reports on the design:

These micro-movements originate at the seat, which is made of a thin plastic that deforms very easily. Because it’s so flexible, sitters open up their legs to balance, as you would on a horse (“saddle seats” do something similar). The pelvis tilts downward and the spinal position neutralizes. This way, kids avoid the dreaded “right angle” sitting position that has been linked to so many health problems as of late. The desk tilts up like a drafting table, getting kids closer to what they’re working on

I'm sure "micro-movements" are better than no movements at all. But it's not clear exactly how much better these chair are for you than regular chairs. A study on different designs would certainly be helpful for concerned consumers, especially since they're priced "fairly high" (though Fast Company says Perch is working on less expensive options). Either way, it's clear that furniture companies should make it a top priority to develop and market healthy designs. Why? The chair is becoming the next cigarette (just Google "sitting").

Ray: A School Furniture System Designed To Make Sitting Healthier [Fast Company]

Photos: Ray

— By on March 18, 2013, 9:00 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure