From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ease Through Summer Outdoors — In Ergonomic Chairs

The United States is sizzling. Hot-and-bothered householders can retreat indoors and wait out the summer of record-breaking temperatures in air-conditioned comfort, or they can opt for outdoor living. Remember the ubiquitous webbed lawn chairs and recliners that pinched everywhere they touched and all but guaranteed a backache? They are history, replaced by leisure seating designed for comfort. And some lines tap into ergonomics to increase the pleasures of relaxing on the deck or patio.

Reporting on the trend the Akron Beacon Journal noted in July that better manufacturers are paying attention to ergonomics, building in features such as lumbar supports to increase the comfort of sling chairs. The article notes that the trend now is toward conversation or chat sets – chairs grouped around a lower, cocktail-height table that is just right for holding drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Counter-height “gathering tables” are another option that’s moving outdoors, according to the article. Those higher tables and chairs allow seated people to interact at eye level with others who are standing – an ideal setup for entertaining. The higher chairs are also easier to get in and out of, which make them a good choice for less agile buyers.

These chairs accumulate ergonomic points in a number of ways. Features that enhance support for the spine and other vulnerable parts of the body earn a handful of points. In some of the models alluded to in the article, seat height is used as a means of enhancing communications and assisting people with impaired mobility. Features that meet these needs are in line for another handful. Adjustability also earns a handful. It’s the antithesis of one-size-fits-all chair design. The article doesn’t mention specific measures that improve the height and size fit between an individual chair and an individual user, but a review of the product catalogs of several outdoor seating lines suggests this important aspect hasn’t been overlooked.

Zero-gravity designs and sling models are promoted as ergonomic in some of the catalogs. Zero-gravity is an exaggerated reclining position that sees the knees in front of the body at chest or head level. The design originated in the human factors department of NASA, and the position supports astronauts comfortably during their ascent into orbit. Zero-gravity seating has been time tested as spaceship furniture. Its ergonomic value in patio seating hasn’t yet had the same level of scrutiny.

Sling models, like hammocks, are suspended from overhead beams. The product descriptions stress how easily the designs lend themselves to the zero-gravity reclining position.

Variations of “exquisite support” appear in the promotional literature for many outdoor chairs. Any chair that lives up to that description summer after summer is bound to earn high points for ergonomic design