Health is a relationship between you and your body, and sitting should be no exception!
The "perils of sitting" has become a mantra in the health and wellness world, encouraging us to seek alternatives to optimize our longevity and quality of life, to maximize our personal productivity and ease our aching backs. The sitting disease has a new antidote: MOVEMENT.
Research from around the world has concluded that the sedentary impact of sitting in traditional office chairs is detrimental to our health. While these studies are alarming, nothing is more immediately conclusive than the personal aching back and body that result from prolonged static sitting. 80% of the population have experienced at least one significant incident of back pain in their life and almost 30% are currently seeking some form of therapeutic intervention for debilitating back pain. Most can readily relate to the tightness and pain associated with prolonged sessions of sitting statically in even high end ergonomic task chairs. The impact of lost productivity that results in the form of absenteeism and presenteeism has a significant impact on the bottom line.
In response to these personal and business impacts we seek remedies that range in scope from behaviour modification, biofeedback, standing work stations and even treadmill desks. All of these options strive to introduce movement into our activities of daily living. Within this plethora of alternatives, sitting has come to be viewed as an evil that must be avoided, and yet sitting is as natural to us as breathing. Rather than abandoning this inherent human functional position, the solution is as simple as introducing small doses of incidental movement throughout the day.
CoreChair has conquered the perils of sitting by way of a unique postural support system that focuses on the pelvis as the foundation, providing a balanced neutral sitting posture. With this optimized posture, the CoreChair provides fluidic motion through a range of 14 degrees in all directions, enhancing joint mobilization of the hips, pelvis and spine. This movement stimulates circulation, hydrates and nourishes the vertebral discs and engages and strengthens the core stabilizing muscles. This directly addresses the negative impacts of sedentary outcomes associated with fixed chairs and provides a training effect that reduces sitting back pain with a carry-over benefit to all other activities of daily living. The adjustable resistance of the CoreChair provides an individual with benefits they might expect from an exercise ball in the gym.
Entrepreneur and Kinesiologist Patrick Harrison is a passionate advocate for the power of movement to dramatically improve our health. From early in his career, Patrick has had a strong vision for healthy seating solutions that led him to establish Canadian based CoreChair. “I can see a future office where the health and wellness of the employee is the standard precursor to the success of that business.”
A research-based, ergonomic seating solution
The traditional office chair as we know it was first developed 150 years ago and while it has evolved in terms of aesthetics and hardware engineering, there has been no significant advancement in terms of human health benefits.
Recent evidence based research on the negative effects of sitting (“sitting disease”, “sitting is the new smoking”), suggest that the sedentary impact of static sitting is very hazardous to one’s health, especially in areas of vascular response and regulating blood chemistry, among other critical measures. Additionally, the effect of poor posture (arising from either improper use or limited design features) contributes to widespread back issues. Studies suggest that 80% of our population has experienced at least one significant musculoskeletal or specifically back pain diagnosis in their lifetime and almost 30% are seeking some form of therapeutic intervention.
The most obvious response to these troubling realities was to introduce standing desks. However, this intervention was introduced and embraced in the absence of sound research.
Emerging studies on standing desks now suggest that standing is equally as problematic as static sitting if the person is not moving. Another trend, sit/stand desks results in the same issue if the user does not engage in movement whether in the sit or stand mode, not to mention the likelihood of long term compliance to a new routine.
Intuitively, active sitting provides the opportunity to employ movement while in the seated position. The initial solution was the use of an exercise ball to replace ergonomic chairs.
Studies have now demonstrated that any benefits derived from movement on the ball are offset by the lack of postural support in addition to the instability and perceived liability issues which have caused many workplaces to disallow their use.
CoreChair was inspired by the need for movement and the inability of the ball to adequately address issues of sedentary sitting and postural support.
Founder and CEO Patrick Harrison had previous success in designing special seating solutions for persons dependent on wheelchairs for mobility, who in some cases were at risk for further debilitating and potentially fatal pressure sores. Using this experience, the CoreChair was designed with an aggressively shaped seating surface that mechanically redistributes sitting pressure. For the desk bound employee this increases sitting comfort and provides a balanced sitting foundation, and a sensitive cause and effect activation of the mechanism. Complementing the seating surface is a low back support – the two elements work together to embrace the pelvis and prevent slumping, allowing movement both above and below this region. By supporting the PSIS (posterior superior iliac spine) the user benefits from a more vertical pelvis which in turn optimizes extension in the ascending spine. This natural extension reduces the need for additional lateral supports such as arm rests by optimizing the interface of the intervertebral facets. In addition, the user now has greater lateral and rotational mobility of the mid to upper back.
CoreChair was developed with a research based approach to address sitting challenges. We assumed a noble disregard of existing solutions, instead adopting a design path that steps outside of the normative expectations of what an office chair should look and perform like in an attempt to deliver a truly unique approach and sitting experience.
Initial investigation on the benefits of the CoreChair design focused around a review of anthropometric standards and field trials to validate this.
In 2010, prototype progressions were evaluated at the University of Waterloo, Dept. of Kinesiology in the form of a pilot study which set the stage for a full kinematic study completed in 2012 by Dr. Jack Callaghan and his team (available upon request).
This study investigated the kinematics comparing sitting experiences on a high end ergonomic office chair, an appropriately prescribed exercise ball and a CoreChair. The outcome demonstrated that CoreChair provided enhanced pelvic support and overall comparable functional support to the ergonomic chair. When engaged in choreographed exercise routines both the CoreChair and the exercise ball demonstrated comparable recruitment of core muscle groups.
The study concluded that CoreChair was effective in providing both functional postural support and an opportunity to engage core stabilizing muscles, and encouraging movement to counteract the sedentary outcomes of traditional office chairs.
The initial publication arising from this study has been published as of October 2015 but has not been assigned to a journal issue yet.
This is a link to the pubmed citation:
A subsequent study investigated Reaching with focus on lateral movement of the spine and margin of safety (MOS). This study concluded that the margin of safety was highest on the CoreChair when compared to the traditional office chair and the exercise ball.
Dr William McIlroy Ph.D., University of Waterloo, will be investigating cerebral blood flow and EEG measures in an attempt to corroborate cognitive efficiencies over prolonged exposure to movement when subjects are seated in a traditional chair versus a standing work station versus a CoreChair. This study will also investigate EMG measures of involved muscle groups to validate measures for the new embedded technology.
The Mayo Clinic study results found that passive sitting on CoreChair compared to the control chair increased caloric burn (metabolic demand) by 17% and not surprisingly with exercise, the caloric burn increased 150%.
The inference here is that users of CoreChair can expect a demand on their metabolic system in contrast to what they would normally incur.
CoreChair has partnered with 35E, a Redwood City, California design company, to create a "smart" CoreChair with embedded technology and a companion app which will provide the user feedback on their personal movements. Working in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, the technology will calibrate tracked movement on the CoreChair with caloric expenditure.
Dr Leah Bent will be researching changes in blood flow both in lower extremity and carotid vessels to link movement to enhanced circulatory function. They will also be investigating a number of different variables such as sensation on lower extremities and pressure mapping on the seated surface.
Dr Alan Hedge will be using graduate students to investigate three variables surrounding “productivity”, “posture” and “anthropometrics”.
Dr Sam Howarth has proposed investigating CoreChair as an intervention for dental hygienists. A study to be funded by the Ministry of Labour, Ontario.
ASTM stability test and BIFMA stability tests have been passed and further reinforced by the aforementioned “Reaching Study” by the University of Waterloo.
The polyurethane foam cushion adheres to CAL 117/133 fire standards. The polyester fabric upholstery has passed European standard fire testing DIN EN 1021-1, DIN EN 4102 B1, DIN EN 1021-2.
The full array of BIFMA Standards were used as the guide to engineering specifications with the durability test becoming the highest standard that we set out to achieve. CoreChair exceeded 1 million cycles where the product had a 250 pound weight on the seating surface and the chair was mechanically moved through the full range of 14 degrees at highest resistance. All other BIFMA standards were exceeded as our bare minimum of product design engineering specification.
The 3D knit upholstery fabric used by Viasit is Oeko-Tex® STANDARD 100 product class 1 polyester with a Martindale rating exceeding 35,000 rubs. Vinyl upholstery is also offered.
In addition to the engineering, testing and research based validation investigations, CoreChair engaged in "real people trials" that included a variety of environments and a diverse range of individual needs to assist in the design process. We concluded that this product is indeed effective in addressing a variety of benefits including but not limited to cognitive alertness, low back pain, rehabilitation of post surgical hip reconstruction, neck and shoulder discomfort and long term sitting tolerance.
Currently CoreChair has approximately 80 chairs in long term trial use in order to continue to gather feedback on the benefits from users and to explore further opportunities for innovation.
Illustrations show pressure distribution when seated correlating to sitting comfort & blood flow.
Low end task chair
High end task chair
The science behind the design of the CoreChair
Traditional ergonomic chairs still include a tall back as a reflection of corporate advancement. Contrary to popular belief, tall backs serve little purpose other than a carry-over of prestige or an opportunity to lounge in a diminished functional position, albeit relaxed (case in point: the iconic Aeron Chair by Herman Miller was originally designed as a chair for the aging population!). Studies conclude that women especially tend to perch on the front edge of their seat, and most people in general don’t even use the upper 2/3 of the tall back.
Most tall backs incorporate a lumbar support in an attempt to counter the effects of low back pain and poor posture associated with sitting at 90° hip position. The lumbar support was/is intended to support the lumbar spine, which flattens when the pelvis is allowed to slump or tilt backward.
So what does CoreChair do differently? With our back support we address the "cause" of lumbar spine-flattening by creating a more aggressive posterior pelvic support. This holds the pelvis in a more vertical position and prevents slumping when used in harmony with the sculpted seat. When the pelvis is stabilized optimally, the ascending spine is balanced and this reduces the need for any further upper body support – especially for an engaged sitting position.
Additionally, the CoreChair back allows greater upper back lateral and rotational mobility. It encourages the shoulders to retract and the user to sit tall, without potentially contacting a surface that might otherwise push the user forward.
Armrests contribute to the sedentary outcome that is hazardous to our health and so we eliminated them. When it comes down to it, armrests’ only function lies in allowing for an inappropriately supported person an opportunity to lean to one side to stabilize their upper body, and most ergonomists suggest that they assist in supporting the forearms while engaging in repetitive tasks such as typing.
However, when we sit in a slumped posture, the naturally inherent engineered lateral support within the spinous-vertebrae is not allowed to interface to provide this stability. When our spine is erect and balanced, these "facets" interconnect like a puzzle to provide the lateral stability. Standing is the obvious optimal position for this, while sitting is close to the other end of the spectrum. A properly balanced seated person generally does not require outriggers to help them sit midline.
With a properly designed workstation, the CoreChair user is allowed to move into their workstation without the interference of armrests.
Armrests are one of the most common inappropriately adjusted features on an office chair. When they are too high they tend to push the shoulders high causing discomfort in the upper back and neck. When they are not fitted properly they tend to contribute to nerve impingement in the forearm.