A recent study of students at the College of Staten Island indicated that college students may be getting more of a taste of the workforce than desired from their chairs, as the potential for back pain that students face from sitting rivals that seen in office workers.
Videotaping 36 full-time students while each sat to watch a 20-minute video, researchers recorded a still image of each participant every 15 seconds. In addition to watching their seated postures, the researchers also asked the respondents to fill out a short health questionnaire.
While the researchers found that participants shifted positions more often in the latter half of the film, they also found that over 83 percent of the participants said they had, in the past, experienced back pain and nearly half of the respondents associated their back pain with classroom chairs. According to researchers, the respondents, who were all seated in traditional straight-backed classroom chairs (Matrix chairs), assumed a “faulty” posture 79.1 percent of the time they watched the video.
Reporting their findings in the August, 2003 issue of BioMechanics, the goal of the study was to determine whether it was practical for students to sit in straight-backed chairs (seat back at approximately a 90 degree angle to the seat) and to determine “whether there are deficiencies in the college classroom setting that lead to problems such as those seen in the workplace,” like back pain.
The researchers noted that the average full-time college student spends over 30 seated hours each week in classrooms, studying in libraries or studying at home. They also concluded that, based on the postural changes and the respondents’ survey answers, it was impractical for students or workers to sit in straight-backed chairs. Ultimately, the researchers believed that their findings supported other recommendations that seated workers should move or change posture frequently and only sit still for short periods of time.
While the researchers indicated that their study was inconclusive, they did determine that additional studies need to be performed to find the “optimum” classroom chair design. Ultimately they hope that additional studies will become the basis for developing ergonomically-designed learning environments.