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Ergonomic review: generic eBay saddle stool

23rd Jul 2015
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Ergonomic chair
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Most of us have an awareness around the importance of ergonomic seating for wherever we sit for most of our day. A lot of the worry for individuals or small organisations is around the cost of this, especially if the chair doesn’t live up to the reputation or promise of what it’s supposed to deliver.

I work freelance from home and had exactly this issue. I have a few health issues which can result in headaches and migraines if, for instance, I sit badly at a desk for too long. The other issue a few years ago, as a budding freelance contractor, was that I didn’t have hundreds of pounds for an ergonomic chair.

So eBay came to my rescue and I spent a mere £40 on a saddle stool. I’d been lucky enough to try one out a couple of times in different places and knew I liked it, but still didn’t want to spend hundreds.

The saddle stool is exactly how it sounds, a stool where the seat is more in the shape of a saddle that goes on a horse. The concept is that you are sat more upright, using your core muscles, spine in alignment, and relieving various tensions and stresses. This works brilliantly for me and I really do like my saddle stool. It focuses me when I’m typing on using excellent posture of bringing my elbows in a little more so that I don’t strain my shoulders, as well as on using those core muscles.

Ebay Saddle Chair

The saddle stool doesn’t get used all the time in my home office, as I do find that you need strong core and back muscles for it to be comfortable all day. For someone in a good, strong physical state, this will be great. Sadly I’m not, so I find personally that using different chairs throughout the day is more useful – this allows some muscles to relax and be supported, ready to work again another time.

The first issue with something that is cheaper, is the quality of the design and manufacturing. I’m not a small person and was wary of the plastic elements breaking if I leant on them wrong. I’ve had the saddle stool several years now and even with my clumsy ways haven’t actually broken it. On my particular cheap model the angle of the seat isn’t easily adjustable – it’s quite a manual process of unscrewing and changing. This isn’t the biggest issue as I have it right now, but did take some effort.

The angle I have it at has been reported by some men to be not quite as comfortable as it is for me… On a not too dissimilar note, as with a saddle on a horse, legs are naturally splayed a little, so wearing a normal knee-length office skirt means no sitting on the saddle stool.

The cheap version I’ve got, whilst height adjustable, doesn’t go high enough for me really. Is that because I’m tall or because it’s cheap? I don’t know, I don’t have a high-end version to compare it to. As a terrible horse rider myself, what I actually miss on this stool is that the seat isn’t bigger. I find real horse saddles very comfortable for long periods and think that my saddle stool could be this good if slightly different. Some of the more expensive versions have different size seats which may compensate for this. There are even versions where the seat has two parts, which I’d love to investigate the benefits of!

Saddle stools often have the option of a back on them. Mine has this but I don’t use it when sitting and typing. If I do use it, I really feel much more like I’m slouching. This is good for movement and not being rigid all the time, but I don’t think this version is good for posture.

I’ve already bought my cheap saddle stool and I do recommend it if it sounds like this design might be useful to you. Buying from eBay won’t break the bank – but would a high end version be worth the investment?

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By mdbook
19th Nov 2015 02:09

Hi Jo, I too got a cheap saddle stool from ebay a couple of years ago. It was 65 or 70 USD at the time and free shipping. The model I got was from a salon supply company. I liked it because it went higher than most, up to 32". Those type are more difficult to find. A tall cylinder wouldn't work for everyone, because the air compresses in a tall cylinder more and a heavier person wouldn't be able to use it at max height. I'm a lightweight (130 lbs) and I have no problems at max height and it was surprisingly durable. I had just sworn off those low desks since they were killing my back, and though I had an adjustable one, I didn't want to keep adjusting it. I wanted to go from stool to standing without moving the desk and a high stool did the job.

As far as the men and comfort issue, that is a good question. Honestly, I don't think it is just men. I think that pressure on the pelvic floor for anyone can be an issue long term. I think you can feel a numbness. I suspect if you don't sit too long it would be ok, but that sort of thing works on your head and its hard to tell how long is too long. After a while I stopped using the stool and was using it primarily to rest a leg on while standing on one foot, which is quite comfortable. I wondered if a Salli stool with the split in the middle might be good, but I've never wanted to cough up the money and I fear it might not be that comfortable in the end, though I have no idea. Unbiased reviews are very hard to come by with those.

But recently I decided to give my cheap saddle another chance and started using it again. I'm pretty fit recently I've learned to keep loose by shifting and moving in ways to try and gain flexibility while at work. I then realized that with the cheap saddle I could squeeze the saddle sides with my legs and it would push my body up to where my pelvis was only lightly touching the seat. It takes the pressure off of the pelvic floor. I also have a foot-ring, and I can get into some unusual but strangely comfortable positions. And with the thighs squeezed on the stool it holds your spine very straight. You can't possibly slouch that way. Sometimes it even pops my hip back into place and I don't need to go to the chiropractor any more to pop me like I used to. When my thigh muscles get tired I just get off the stool and stand up like always. So I've learned to use my cheap but durable ebay saddle to learn what they call "active sitting". Maybe the trick is not to passively sit. Saddles make it easier to actively sit, but I ignore the advice to always keep the feet planted. It's not for everyone, but it works for me. I suspect that I'm better off with this method than less actively–in other words more passively–sitting on a more expensive saddle.

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