Learn why ergonomic saddle chairs help you achieve better posture and relieve back pain
Dental professionals have long understood the proven benefits of saddle chairs, and it’s easy to understand why. They’re considered among the most ergonomically “at risk” professionals, because their jobs not only require long hours of sitting, they also have to hunch unnaturally over patients while they work. Which means their bodies are often fraught with pain. Doctors, physical therapists, ultrasound technicians, and other medical professionals have followed suit over the years, incorporating ergonomic chairs with saddle seats into their exam rooms and offices.
But you don’t have to go to medical school to benefit from a saddle chair. Anyone who sits for long stretches will soon realize saddle chairs are good for your back.
The School of Healthcare Studies at Cardiff University conducted a study in 2012 to discover the best ergonomic office chairs, specifically focusing on which chair produced the ideal spinal posture. The study found “the most appropriate posture for the lumbopelvic region was produced by the Saddle chair, and for the cervical region by both the Saddle and Swopper chairs.”
Wondering why you've never heard of saddle chairs before?
You can thank 100 years of misinformation about ergonomics. Learn more
Ride a saddle chair — save your back
Saddle chairs -- also called saddle seats and saddle stools -- are appropriately named thanks to their resemblance to equestrian saddles, and put your body into the same body position you’d be in if you were riding a horse:
Legs apart, knees dropped below the hips, and pelvis tilted forward.
Here’s why this posture is proven to be the most ergonomic:
It allows your spine to rest in its natural S curve -- also known as a “neutral spine.” This means your weight is distributed properly to the lower half of your body, the way it should be to provide maximum support, alleviate strain on your low back, and prevent injury.
Your core is engaged, which means your body actually learns to support itself while you sit because the chair is no longer a crutch.
Unlike traditional office chairs that force your legs into a 90-degree angle and cut off the blood flow to your feet, this posture allows for blood flow throughout the entire body and doesn’t shorten your thigh muscles.
Another unexpected benefit: saddle chairs are intentionally shaped to enable you to move throughout the day, whether that movement is to change position or get up easily to stand and stretch. Movement is key to feeling healthy and energized as you work.
From subtle to very saddle-y: Which saddle chair is right for you?
You might be hearing about saddle chairs for the first time, but lucky for you, designers have been adapting this style of seating since the late 1970s. The result is a variety of options ranging from narrow and subtle, to downright cowboy.
No matter which option you choose, it’s important to note that if this is a new way of sitting for you, it may take you a few weeks to get used to this new posture. You may want to start with an hour or two a day and work your way up to more time. Trust us, it’s worth the time investment.
You’ll also notice some saddle chairs have a backrest, and others don’t. This comes down to personal choice, but you’ll likely notice you need a backrest less and less after sitting in a saddle chair, because your core has strengthened to the point where a backrest is unnecessary. The backrest becomes nice to have on occasion, rather than a necessity.
Here is a guide to our favorite saddle chairs:
Capisco and Capisco Puls
Saddle level: The perfect saddle compromise; great for all day sitting
Capisco has a sophisticated contoured saddle chair with a backrest that works for nearly every body type. Falling into the more “subtle” saddle category, the leg cutouts in the front allow you to sit in a saddle position without even thinking about it. It’s one of the key features of Capisco’s human-centered design, which allows more healthy and active sitting postures in a single chair than three others put together. The plus-shaped back of the seat also makes for comfortable backwards or sideways sitting.
It’s no surprise Capisco is the chair that started this company. With seven seat color options and three frame options, we have yet to find a chair that is as versatile as it is beautiful in its design. Learn more.
Capisco Puls has everything we love about Capisco, but with a modernized molded polyurethane seat and backrest, and a slimmer saddle that allows you to site with your legs closer together. Check it out here.
Saddle level: Pretty darn saddl-y; a great saddle stool for partial to all-day sitting
ILOA’s triangular padded seat allows for a more intentional saddle position, with added support for your thighs. The wheeled base on this saddle stool and its small profile make it ideal for so many scenarios, from the traditional office to the dining room table to the medical exam room.
Created by myKolme and industrial designer Jonas Hakaniemi, Iloa is a statement piece that comes in five colors. See all the colors.
Tic Toc Chair and Tic Toc Balans Kneeling Chair
Saddle level: Just a hint of saddle, a great saddle stool for part of the day
The seats of our Tic Toc chairs are just slightly raised in the center, letting you control just how much or how little you separate your knees. Both saddle stools also boast a rocker base, which means you can gently sway back-and-forth to keep your body moving, your back aligned, and your circulation flowing so you feel more engaged, more fully yourself, in every moment. Check out Tic Toc and Tic Toc Balans.
Swopper Saddle Seat
Saddle level: Yee-haw; great for all day sitting, especially if you like to have fun
Saddle meets yoga ball in the ever-exuberant Swopper Saddle. With its tilting spring base and dramatic saddle, it’s a truly active seating option that responds to your body’s shifting weight and can’t fail to keep you engaged. Start the ride here.
Whether you are upgrading or trying a saddle stool for the first time, the benefits of saddle seats are universal:
You’ll be able to naturally sit in the most ergonomic posture, one that achieves a neutral spine
Your back will be supported
Your core muscles will strengthen and your body will learn how to support itself
Want to learn more about the importance of active sitting and the role saddle seats can play?