While chairs may at first glance seem like a better option than stools for providing back support, there are several reasons why stools actually encourage you to maintain better posture. Namely, stools encourage the back into a neutral position, discourages slouching, and directs the thighs into a downward position.
Stools are better than chairs for improved posture
The average office worker uses a traditional gas cylinder office chair (careful these can turn dangerous!) to sit at their desk. Those who do often end up adopting poor posture and after long hours begin to experience lower back pain.
There are several reasons why stools are a better option for improved posture when compared with office chairs. These include:
- Stools allow you to sit in a more natural sitting position (spine in a natural curve), as opposed to a traditional chair’s sitting position that encourages a straight back
- Legs, and in particular, thighs will slope downward when sitting on a stool. This encourages your pelvis and lower back into a more neutral position
- You will begin to do “active sitting” on a stool, as opposed to slouching which messes up back and core muscles.
Below, we touch upon how these reasons improve posture and back health overall before discussing why chairs can be disadvantageous to posture and back health.
Stools promote a natural back curve when sitting
Typically, people complain of an uncomfortable back when sitting against a chair back for long periods. This is due to the unnatural position the chair frame puts the spine in, thus causing strain and eventually pain such as sciatica.
One of the key reasons that stools are ergonomically superior over chairs is that they actually encourage the back into a more natural curve.
When we sit in a way that allows the spine to be in a natural position, we are able to alleviate pressure and tension muscles experience when sitting in an awkward position.
Think of it this way, if you had nothing behind your back to lean on, you would instinctively straighten up your back to compensate for the lack of support. In turn, your posture improves, and overall your back endures less tension and pain from slouching.
Thighs slope downwards when sitting on a stool
Another reason that stools promote better posture when compared to chairs is that they automatically have you seated at a higher elevation. In comparison to traditional chairs, stools elevate you further off the ground, which helps to slant your thighs downward. When your thighs slope downwards, your pelvis and lower back (lumbar) actually go into a more neutral position.
This is helpful for posture since it alleviates some of the pressure that your spine might incur from slouching. And when you improve posture, pain and discomfort are also reduced in the pelvis and lumbar regions.
Sitting on stools promotes active sitting
Active sitting basically means you are actively supporting yourself while you sit, rather than relying on a chair back to do so.
When you actively sit, you are working to straighten your back and sit upright, which helps you learn the habit of good posture. This train of thought was backed by researchers in a 2019 study that found office workers who complained of lower back pain tended to show more static sitting behaviour.
Furthermore, when you actively sit, you work different core and back muscles, which overall improves your upper body strength. Being toned in these areas leads to less pain and back injury in the long run.
And one more benefit of active sitting is that it may as a result help you to be more productive. If you’re using the stool when you’re at work or in the office, active sitting can help your body and mind to be more alert in general (as opposed to feeling sleepy whilst sitting in a chair), which can help you stay on top of tasks.
Finally, when weighing up chairs vs stools for posture, we might at first think there isn’t much of a difference. While some complain of sitting comfortably when using a traditional chair, it turns out that for long-term comfort a stool actually has better payoff.
The reasons stools are better for improving posture include the fact that they promote active sitting, slope your thighs downwards for reduced lumbar and pelvic pain and put your spine in a natural curve rather than slouch.
The disadvantages of chairs for posture are quite obvious then, owing to the fact that their seat backs encourage slouching and put the body in a position for less blood flow and comfort.
How do I know if I’m sitting on a stool correctly?
It’s important to note that the posed benefits of sitting on a stool as opposed to a chair require proper sitting. You can’t achieve good posture and reduce the incidence of back pain using a stool if you sit on it the wrong way.
Take into consideration the following directions and tips when sitting on a stool:
- Sit high up – this may involve raising the elevation of the stool if possible
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Keep your rear close to the back end of the stool seat
- Sit at an elevation that allows your knees to be below your hip level
- Get up to walk around regularly
- Keep your body’s weight balanced as evenly as possible between your hips
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