They say that sitting is the new smoking. As a society, we are becoming a nation of sitters, with sit-down office-based jobs on the rise and more homes being transformed into workstations, our sit-time is getting longer and longer… as is the list of health complaints that comes from too much sitting!
With high blood pressure, abnormally high levels of cholesterol and excess fat around the waist all resulting from long-term sitting, mobility and ergonomic/lumbar support are becoming increasingly important.
Ergonomic chairs and standing desks are all the rage, and you can see many cool, sleek, almost alien-looking designs populating the home section of your local department store. Unfortunately, a lot of this high-end furniture comes with a hefty price tag!
That’s why we’ve compiled a helpful how-to guide for anyone who wants to improve their sitting mobility on a budget or simply those that fancy getting creative with their office furniture!
But first, we’re going to cover the definition of ergonomic and why it is important for your overall health.
What Is Ergonomic?
Ergonomic chairs are highly adaptable to be able to suit the particular needs of the user, whether it be larger back support for taller individuals or a wider seat to accommodate those with longer thighs. They are associated with higher productivity, owing to the customized support they offer.
Motion is the lifeblood for our exoskeleton, if we hold ourselves in one position for too long it will fundamentally alter that structure.
For example, if you find yourself hunched over at your work desk, the likelihood is that you’ll affect the muscles in your spine and develop chronic back problems.
It is recommended that most people subscribe to the 20-minute rule - that is, 20 minutes of sitting to be followed by 20 minutes of standing at a different workstation. This increases mobility and avoids impeded blood flow around the body.
As with anything in life, things wear out after repeated uses - shoes, mattresses, chairs, even people! But, of course, your aim is to make sure that your office chair or workspace wears out before you!
That is why it is advised that sitters do a 9-month visual inspection of their workstation. A dipping chair could cause more long term damage down the line.
What To Look For In An Ergonomic Chair Or Standing Desk
So, bearing those things in mind, there are a few key things to look for when using an ergonomic chair.
- Adjustable seat height
- Seat width and depth
- Lumbar support
- Adjustable backrest
- Seat material
- Adjustable armrests
To ensure maximum comfort and support, especially for the more injury-prone regions such as the neck, spine and circulatory system, then a seat that is adjustable to your unique proportions and body type is crucial.
However, as mentioned previously, not everyone has the time, inclination or cash to purchase an ergonomically-efficient chair or standing workstation.
Well, tell your spine and neck to relax, and read our guide below for fashioning your very own DIY ergonomic chair out of materials that cost next-to-nothing!
DIY Ergonomic Chairs
Okay, our first chair is very simple to lash together. All you need is one item that might already be lying around in your garage or garden shed along with two more items that you will certainly have going spare in the bedroom.
- Bungee cords (x2)
- Cushions (memory foam padding is ideal for this)
- A pillowcase
Did you get those items? Easy, wasn’t it? Now grab your office chair and let's get to work!
- Place your support cushion in a comfortable position behind your back.
- Secure the cushion to the chair by wrapping it with bungee cords.
- Cover the bungee cord and support cushion with the pillowcase.
Start with wrapping one bungee cord around the cushion and connect it on the backside of your back-seat pad. Cross the second bungee so it makes a bow-tie shape for better stability. Take a test sit to make sure everything is comfortable and securely in place.
Covering with the pillowcase is not just aesthetically pleasing, but it is also a safety precaution in case the bungee cords unhook while sitting.
Okay, so that’s the instructions for your first ergonomic chair. Pretty simple, huh? Well, here’s another one that is slightly more tricky and requires a few more materials.
- A car seat
- Foam or padding
- Synthetic leather seat cover
- Spray adhesives, such as 3M or Loctite
- Silicone caulking (optional)
- Spray paint and rust remover
- Old office chair stand
- Bolts and nuts
So you’ve rummaged in the garage and manage to find those items. Now here are the instructions:
- Dismantle the seat to remove the padding or foam inside.
- You can either put silicone caulking on the foam to bring back its firmness, or you can use new foam to pad the inside of the seat.
- When adding new foam to the seat, get a piece of parchment paper and trace the outline of the parts of the seat.
- Keep in mind that foam compresses, so the new foam should be bigger than the trace by 1/4 or 1/2 inches.
- Use spray adhesive so the foam adheres to the contact surface.
- For the foam to attach tightly to the contact surface, you can fine-tune the foam before the application of adhesive and apply strong pressure when gluing the foam.
- Reassemble the seat and wrap it with a leather seat cover.
- Cut a piece of plywood with a size appropriate to support the size of the seat.
- Drill four holes in the middle part so that they form a square outline.
- The plywood will connect the seat to the stand with the use of nuts and bolts.
- Apply spray paint to the plywood, clean the nuts and bolts and the stand to make sure they are dirt- and rust-free.
So there you have it! Two methods for a DIY ergonomic chair that you can build in your very own home!
It is worth stressing that you should thoroughly test your homemade ergonomic chairs first, because unless you are a trained carpenter then some of the various parts might have the potential to come loose and cause injury.
Okay, so we’ve covered the chairs, what about the standing desks?
DIY Standing Desk
Standing desks are very popular, especially amongst those who want to keep mobile and active whilst at their computer.
One easy method of creating a standing desk with zero labor or skill is simply by converting a chest of drawers!
That’s right, remove your deodorant bottles or books and place your computer and keyboard on that. Most drawers are either waist-height or a little taller if you’re lucky, so they’re perfect for the stand-up worker.
They even have drawers that you can keep stationery and other essential workplace items in!
However, for those who aren’t vertically-challenged, you might still find yourself bending to accommodate your work desk rather than the other way around.
So here’s a slightly more complex guide for a standing desk for those with time, materials and, well… amateur carpentry skills!
- Long Pipe (50 inch)
- Short Pipe (12 inch)
- Short Pipe (8 inch)
- Short Pipe (6 inch)
- Tee fittings
- Flange fittings
- Butcher’s Block (48x24 inch)
- Wood screws
- WD40 lubricant
- Gather all of your supplies needed. Make space and lay down the butcher block countertop.
- Create the base for the legs. Give the threads of the pipes a little spray with WD40. Attach tee fittings to both sides of the long pipe. Make sure the tee fittings are horizontally fastened. Using the 8-inch pipes, connect them to both sides of the tee fittings connected to the long pipe.
- Create the legs, with the long pipe now looking like a capital ‘I’. Connect the tee fittings to all four 8-inch pipes. Position the tee fittings so the next pipes can be installed with the parallel.
- Connect the legs to the butcher’s block, with the legs and the butcher’s block face down. Measure up the flange fittings to where you want them to be.
Remember: if you’re going for a sleek, professional look, it may be best to spray paint your pipes all the same color. We recommend a very stylish black.
Also, give your desk nice high legs to make it into a standing desk.
DIY Chair Mat
Finally, if you’re sick of the castors on your swivel chair getting worn down to their nubs because of thick carpet, then you might want to look at the instructions for this super-simple DIY chair mat, again made from a material that can be bought from your local hardware store.
- A piece of plywood (4×4 cut)
- Luxury vinyl flooring
- Lay out the vinyl squares, make sure they’re squared up (and that the pattern isn’t too awful to look at!)
- Sand the plywood, so it will better stick with the vinyl and smooth down the sides to form a customized lip for the wheels of your chair.
- Attaching the vinyl to your plywood should take around 10 minutes.