A fairly new concept in seating, saddle chairs are beginning to gain acceptance in this country by an ever-widening group of impressed users. From dental hygienists to high-tech assembly workers to office employees, this type of chair has a large potential application.

A saddle chair uses the same principles in its design as an equestrian saddle, which requires a wide stance and puts the user’s hip into a more open, 135-degree angle, compared to the 90-degree angle typically associated with sitting in a standard chair.

Change in posture

Many scientists, as well as several studies, seem to point to a more open hip angle as being generally a healthier sitting posture—the main advantage affecting the low back, as an equestrian posture has long been known to promote healthy back posture. Virtually all scientists agree that a moderate amount of lumbar lordosis (a slight inward curvature of the lumbar spine) in both sitting and standing is critical in maintaining a healthy spine. Yet, most chairs offer the user only a 90 degree seated posture, which results in lumbar kyphosis (or an outward rounding of this region of the spine). Such a seated posture is not protective of the spine and, no matter how diligent we are in trying to sit properly in our standard chair, we are fighting against gravity and gravity will always win in the end.

The saddle chair offers a more balanced seating approach, putting the user into a semi-standing posture with the open hip angle, and introducing something called active sitting, whereby the spine stays in motion, helping the user resist fatigue throughout the day. The low back is more or less locked into this balanced position, despite having no back rest support.

Use of a saddle chair requires certain conditions

  • The desk or work surface height usually needs to be raised 8-10 inches, to put the user into an optimal position, and to avoid introducing any new ergonomic problems into the mix.
  • Due to the wide stance required, wearing looser fitting clothing is recommended.
  • A short break-in period is required, which may include some sore muscles for a few days. Transitioning to this type of seat takes about two weeks for the average individual, but can take as long as a year for some. A split-seat model is recommended for men.

The benefits of this type of chair may include

  • Apparent ease at maintaining the hollow of the low back in a balanced posture.
  • Improved circulation to the lower extremities, resulting in less fatigue.
  • As the upper body stays more relaxed, muscle tension is minimized.
  • Excellent mobility. It is easy to move around on the chair, reach for items, do forward-leaning tasks and getting on and off the chair is effortless.
  • Fairly adaptable for standing height work as well.