Having a solid work-from-home setup is becoming more important. A key component of any workstation is a good ergonomic chair. Office-style ergo chairs are available. Even so, many beginners start out with cheaper, simpler, racing-style gaming chairs. If you’re preparing to buy your first gaming chair, this guide is for you.
For work from home, you can choose an office-style ergonomic chair or a racing-style one. Many people go with gaming chairs — they’re cheaper, simpler, and just as good for your well-being.
ChairsFX began with a single DXRacer F-Series gaming chair back in 2016. Since then, we’ve logged thousands of hours on gaming chairs of various types. Based on our tests, we’ve written in-depth guides on all gaming chair angles.
To keep things valid, we’ve also cross-referenced our findings with all of the leading ergonomic studies.
This article boils down all factors into a fast, easy-to-read guide. Skim through the article to get the gist in a hurry. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to buy the right gaming chair and reap the full rewards of healthy sitting.
The Gaming Chair Story For Beginners
Here’s the story of a social problem that gaming chairs provide a solution for.
Sitting For Long Periods Is Bad For You
For over three million years, humans survived and evolved by moving their bodies. Hunting, gathering, and evading predators provided vigorous daily exercise. As a result, bodies (and minds) evolved to be strong, agile, and lean.
What did not evolve was an ability to sit for long periods of time. When standing, a healthy lumbar spine curves inward to the belly at an angle of 20-45 degrees. Sitting reduces the lumbar curve by half.
As the lumbar curve flattens, hip flexors shorten and the lower back tightens. That curls the spine into a “c” shape that tilts the head forward while sagging the shoulders.
Modern Health Decline
Sitting in a slouch with a flattened lumbar curve is bad for you. That’s why around 80% of American adults suffer from anterior pelvic tilt.
This condition forces the body to be tight on one side and weak on the other. While slouching, the lower back tightens while the abdominal muscles get weaker. At the same time, quad muscles tighten, while hamstrings elongate and weaken.
Anterior pelvic tilt makes people look shorter, fatter, and less confident. Under the surface, it also drains energy, amplifies brain fog, and crushes motivation.
Some people accept existing this way as normal. Others seeking more out of life should consider their seating as the primary problem.
How did humans regress from agile nomads onto docile, overweight sloths so quickly? Why hasn’t anyone questioned it? The answer lies with the modern education system.
School Systems Are Ergonomically Ignorant
The first public school in America opened in 1635. Its curriculum focused on family, religion, and community. By around 1850, academic subjects entered the picture. Seat in this era was brutal.
Children went from playing in the fields to sitting long hours on wooden seats. Those who fidgeted or failed to sit straight would get beaten.
When schooling became compulsory in the 1850s, many were opposed. Some argued it was unnatural to force kids to sit at desks six hours per day.
Opponents were dismissed and academia proceeded. Until 1943, the result was a national obsession with unnaturally rigid postures. Sitting and standing ramrod straight was seen as dignified. Curved spines became associated with weakness and low status.
By 1950, the straight posture craze waned. The film Rebel Without a Cause made James Dean’s exaggerated slouch a symbol of youthful defiance.
By the 1980s, posture habits had completely fallen off the national radar. It was no longer considered a measure of social worth and was therefore forgotten.
The gist is that in over 150 years, public school ergonomics has come full circle. Without factoring in any ergonomic science, the first pioneer schools forced students to sit on fixed, ill-fitting furniture.
Today, modern students sit the same way pioneer schoolchildren did. In over 150 years, public school seating technology has not changed!
Standard Office Chairs Hinder Wellness
Sitting is bad for you because it flattens the lumbar curve and tilts the hips forward. That misaligns the body, straining muscles and burning massive amounts of energy.
Even so, the modern office chair ignores the physiological problem. A typical model has a padded seat and fixed armrests. You can adjust the seat height and rock the chair.
Without lumbar support, sitting in an office chair for long periods can cause serious harm. For one thing, forcing yourself to sit up straight for several hours each day is exhausting.
Once your back muscles finally give up, slouching sets in. Over time sitting with a slouch, a host of health issues will emerge.
Symptoms of unhealthy sitting
Signs that your chair is harming you include lower back pain and neck stiffness. Here are other common symptoms of unhealthy sitting:
- Chronic fatigue: poor posture overworks the muscles and joints around the spine. That inevitably causes muscular fatigue. Prolonged fatigue weakens joints and ligaments. The weaker the foundation, the more energy your body needs to hold itself up against gravity. This is a downward spiral that gets worse over time.
- Chronic headaches: slouching tilts the head forward. That increases stress on joints and muscles in the upper neck. Pain creeps up from the base of the neck and radiates upwards. These days, around 4 million Americans (mainly women) suffer from chronic migraines.
- Slower digestion: poor posture reduces blood flow and compresses the lower intestines. That forces food to move slower through the system. Common symptoms of an abnormally slowed digestion include bloating, flatulence, and constipation.
- Depression: many studies show a correlation between poor posture and negative emotions. For instance, people who sit upright tend to be more alert, positive and energetic. In contrast, people who slouch tend towards apathy and negative thinking.
For a detailed look at cheap office chair health risks, see this feature:
Neutral Sitting Is The Healthiest Option
Ergonomic studies began for military purposes in the 1940s. By the 1970s, a few ergonomic prototypes of desk workers emerged. Over the past 20 years, many studies have come to the same conclusions about healthy sitting. Over long periods, the healthiest way to sit is in a neutral position.
Neutral sitting in any type of ergonomic chair will maintain a healthy lumbar curve. Then, instead of your muscles supporting the spine, the chair does the work. As a result, a user can enjoy long periods sitting without stress or discomfort.
Essential Ergonomic Components
Without support, neutral sitting in any type of chair will inevitably lead to slouching. At first, feet pressed flat into the floor provide stability. At the same time, back muscles kick into high gear to hold the torso upright.
When the back muscles tire, the spine bends into a slouch. That tilts the hips forward, cranes the neck, and increases pressure on the entire spine.
To promote neutral postures and prevent these things from happening, a chair needs three ergonomic components:
- Adjustable lumbar support: maintains a healthy spinal alignment.
- Adjustable armrests: bracing for the forearms provides support to relieve the spine.
- Reclining backrest: movement while sitting stimulates blood flow and switches up working muscles.
For a detailed explanation of how neutral sitting helps, see this report:
Lumbar Support Helps Neutral Sitting
An adjustable lumbar is the most important health component in any ergonomic chair. It directly addresses the fundamental problem caused by sitting for long periods.
Sitting in a basic office chair will reduce the lumbar curve and rotate the pelvis forward. Then, muscles in the back and shoulders that hold the spine upright will get underworked. With less work, these muscles weaken. That makes poor posture even worse.
The simple solution to prevent a flattened lower back curve is to apply mild pressure. You can test this yourself at home with a rolled-up yoga mat or weightlifting belt.
Using either to apply mild pressure to the lower back reflexively straightens the spine. On a gaming chair, the most common type of lumbar support is a simple padded pillow.
Adjust the pillow up or down so that it fills the small of your spine. Then, lean back. That will apply light pressure to your lower back, reflexively kicking your spine into alignment.
Here are the facts, from Seeking the Optimal Posture of the Seated Lumbar Spine:
- A healthy standing lumbar curve is between 20-45 degrees.
- Unsupported sitting reduces a standing curve by 50%. As a result, intradiscal pressure at the third lumbar vertebra increases by 40%.
- Sitting with a back angle of 110° and a lumbar support 4 cm deep delivers a healthy lumbar curve of 47°.
- A sustained lordotic sitting position decreases disc pressure and spinal disc degeneration.
For a detailed look at the science of lumbar support, see this feature:
Good Posture Boosts Productivity
Good posture will make you stand up straight and look more confident. More important is how it will make you feel.
Good posture makes you more energetic
When your spine is out of alignment, muscles must work harder to compensate. In contrast, good posture balances the muscles around the spinal column.
When fatigued, brainpower falters. Dr. Roger Sperry (1980 Nobel Prize recipient for brain research) made this famous quote on this topic:
Better than 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in relating the physical body in its gravitational field. The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.
In other words, sitting with poor posture leaves only 10% of energy for thinking, metabolism, and healing. With the help of a gaming chair, you can ‘hack’ this ratio.
Using one will relieve a huge amount of pressure off of the back, neck, and upper body. As a result, the body gains an excess of energy to make use of.
More brain power supercharges productivity
Slouching in a chair overworks muscles. That burns huge amounts of energy that could instead be powering the brain. This is counterproductive to “working” at a computer.
Poor posture compresses the rib cage, reducing oxygen intake by up to 30%. With less oxygen, computational speed slows down in the prefrontal cortex. That is the “thinking” part of the brain.
This is why people who slouch tend to suffer from brain fog and a lack of focus. In fact, many studies show that poor posture also amplifies feelings of apathy.
On the flip side, those who sit straight are more alert, with a higher level of brain activity.
Buying A Gaming Chair Online
Once you have your head around the ergonomic concepts, it’s time to buy a gaming chair. Here’s a flash guide walkthrough of the process:
Choose a Cheap or Premium Gaming Chair
Both cheap and expensive gaming chairs have the same purpose. That is to support neutral postures for long periods of sitting.
Paying more for a gaming chair will get you better durability and adjustability. Even so, a cheaper chair (used correctly) will give you the same quality of back support.
At ChairsFX, we divide gaming chairs into three price classes:
- Cheap gaming chairs under $200: come with 2D armrests, a rocking function, and a 2-year warranty.
- Gaming chairs between $200-$300: come with better adjustability but the same durability as cheap chairs.
- Premium gaming chairs over $300: come with 4D armrests, a multifunction tilt, and a 2-5 year warranty.
In general, if you need full-time support, it’s worth paying extra for a premium model. That will give you more comfortable, consistent support to help you perform better.
On the other hand, teens, hobbyists, and users needing only part-time support will get great value from a cheaper chair. To learn more, see this article:
Choose The Right Size
The point of a gaming chair is to support the spine while sitting for long hours. To ensure the best results, it’s important to choose the right chair for your size.
Choosing a chair too tall for your body won’t deliver optimal support. Instead, the lumbar and neck pillows won’t fit your spine’s natural curves. As well, a chair too tall will leave your feet dangling instead of planting on the floor.
The Secretlab Titan 2022 Series is the only gaming chair on the market available in three sizes. This provides a solid definition for small, medium, and XL chair sizes:
Here are the dimensions of each Secretlab Titan size:
|Titan EVO Small||2022 Series Medium||2022 Series XL|
|Seat||17.7" (W) x 18.9" (D)||18.5" (W) x 19.3" (D)||19.3" (W) x 19.7" (D)|
|Backrest||20" (W) x 32.3" (H)||21" (W) x 33.5" (H)||22" (W) x 35" (H)|
|Seat height||17.7" to 20.5"||17.7" to 20.5"||18.1" to 21.9"|
|Size rating||4'11" to 5'6"; 285 pounds||5'7" to 6'2"; 285 pounds||5'11" to 6'9"; 395 pounds|
Picking a chair based on your height is simple. Simply choose the model that best fit your needs within three size types:
- Best-small gaming chairs: for sizes 4’9″ to 5’7″ (ages 12 and up).
- Pro esports gaming chairs: pro-quality gaming chairs for average sizes (5’8″ to 6’2″).
- Best big and tall gaming chairs: for sizes 5’11” to 6’7″ and up to 400 pounds.
For a complete look at sizing fundamentals, see this feature:
Use Neutral Sitting Fundamentals
My adjustment to using a gaming chair back in 2016 was long and painful. With no tutorials available online at the time, I had to wing it. For a few weeks, using my gaming chair was extremely uncomfortable. More than once, I considered throwing it in the trash.
Fortunately, I persevered and found my groove. To help others get a smoother start than I did, ChairsFX has prepared a few tutorials.
This video guide teaches how to sit in a neutral position. It also explains how to configure your lumbar support, armrests, and recline.
We’ve also prepared a step-by-step introduction to neutral sitting in a gaming chair. Beyond neutral sitting tips, it lists common mistakes to avoid while using a gaming chair:
Twenty years ago, ergonomic seating was beyond the budget of the average consumer. When DXRacer released the world’s first gaming chair in 2006, it brought ergonomics to the masses. While many focus on its flashy racing designs, the true value of a gaming chair is its ergonomic support.
If you sit full-time in a basic office chair, you likely suffer from back pain. Stiffness, chronic lethargy, and frequent headaches are other symptoms of inadequate seating.
Asking your teacher for healthy sitting advice is pointless — educators have no clue! In the workplace, office managers are more interested in the price of a chair than its ergonomic qualities.
A good gaming chair lets you reclaim control of your wellness. This guide explains what problem gaming chairs solve, and how they solve it. In solving that problem, users enjoy improved health, wellness, and productivity.
Ready to turn things around? Check this feature to see how a gaming chair can supercharge your motivation and workspace productivity: