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Is The Meaning of "Ergonomic" Evolving?

Ever notice how toddlers make the transition from standing to sitting on their tush? It's one fluid kerplunk. Their spine remains straight and upright, in the same orientation to gravity as when they stood. They simply transfer the upper body's weight from their feet to their sits bones. Thank goodness the distance they have for making a landing is so short. As adults we can approximate this move by dropping into a squat before easing through the last few inches. Hopefully it will be years before I'm wearing Depends for padding as well.

Most of us can't imagine making such a quick transition from standing to sitting without bruises. However, we see graceful adult variations all the time demonstrated by dancers, gymnasts, Judo masters and the like. You could say that toddlers simply haven't had the time or opportunity we've had to move out of right relation with the floor. Regular readers of this blog know where my bias is. I believe most of us in the West took a wrong turn when our schooling moved us from the kindergarten story rug to the desk to begin our training to be dutiful knowledge workers. Until the last decade or so, there didn't seem to be any alternative to educating our bodies and minds in this way. I used to think I was alone in claiming that wireless technologies obliterate any excuse for not putting our physical health first and make our work tools accommodate that. Thanks to the new meme of "Sitting is the new smoking" we at Soul Seat are getting some company.


I've seen this phrase on several sites beyond just the community of cutting edge ergonomists. It is; "The best position is the next position." This is an acknowledgement that the images you'll find all over the web associated with the term "ergonomic" (like this one) are misleading at best. This old paradigm implies a static posture is acceptable. They imply that if you get the geometries just so, the lumbar support just right, then you're good to go for hours at a time. The latest research is suggesting that's simply the starting point. It's much more important for us knowledge workers to find the means to stay active at work, to take a ten minute walking break out of each hour.

Now I see that the biggest hurdle to overcome is not whether or not our tools are wired to the wall but our ingrained habits and mental models such as "proper chairs have backs". Just yesterday I had a phone call with a new Soul Seat owner in Puerto Rico. He commented on how comfortable the chair was. The absence of a conventional chair back had him expecting discomfort to be his first sensation. He was pleasantly surprised, as most first time Soul Seaters are.

Another notion that is now outdated is, "cushy desk job". Is a desk job that doesn't involve the option and encouragement of regular physical activity the new dangerous profession?