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Product Review - Are you sitting comfortably?

Dr Stefan Cembrowicz tries out an Embody ergonomic chair for 12 solid hours in his consulting room.

Dr Cembrowicz: less grumpy
Dr Cembrowicz: less grumpy

Surely NHS professionals should not sit in chairs costing several hundred pounds?

If you need an opinion on this, ask the Health & Safety Executive. Its Liverpool HQ is kitted out with Herman Miller's (HM) ergonomic chairs.

Chairs that are ergonomically designed reduce negative effects of musculoskeletal pressure on circulation from prolonged sitting in one position. And the latest, state of the art ergonomic chair from HM is the Embody.

Sedentary workers
To quote Bill Stumpf, the Embody's designer: 'We aimed to improve the overall health of the sedentary worker.'

The research evidence base suggests that people in flexible, relaxed seating have lower resting pulses and higher productivity than other mortals. Users stay alert and retain stamina.

My last office chair, made in China, cost £125 and, like its predecessor, lasted three years before collapsing gracelessly under me after a 12-hour day in my surgery. The Embody, however, is guaranteed for 12 years of three shifts per day. I tried one out for a fortnight.

Ventilation to keep cool
Getting a chair right in form and function is one of the hardest things in the industrial design world, so seven adjustments control the rake, height, depth, and fine tune spine and thigh support, matching your spinal curvature. A hi-tech mesh fabric cover allows ventilation, keeping you cool.

Following studies on pressure distribution and tissue perfusion (pressure points reduce perfusion, hence discomfort), the chair back has a slim vertical spine, supporting a flexible system of 56 individual 'pixels'.

Like a pocketed mattress, these pads support your spine as you lean back and twist sideways. When you tilt, your eyes stay aligned at screen level, encouraging a more laidback work posture.

Ten minutes of fine-tuning set me up for the most comfortable fortnight ever at my desk.

After 12-hour days in this chair, my ischial tuberosities did not ache, my back was not too hot and there were no tight spots. I could lean back, getting a spinal workout against the kickback spring, and the next morning I looked forward to getting into it again.

Justifying the price
Prices for versions with arms and castors range from £787 plus VAT. The upholstery colour range includes black, peacock and kiwi green. So can I justify such expense? Well, if I bought one now it would cost about 2p per hour over the 12-year guarantee period - money probably saved in osteopaths' bills and better productivity due to less grumpiness.

Michael Winner says always buy the most expensive thing you can afford: buy nice or buy twice. I have never experienced chair envy before, but I did not want to return the Embody.

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