Sitting Can Be Good for the
HOW THE EMBODY® CHAIR LOWERS HEART RATE
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause
as a significant contributor to this deadly disease.
of death and morbidity in industrialized nations,
/ See Figure 1 / For people increasingly seduced by
accounting for about 50 percent of all deaths. Since
computer technology—and the sedentary positions it
the 1970s, the prevalence, incidence, and mortality
encourages—seating solutions that benefit the heart
of chronic heart failure have increased (National
might help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases,
Institute of Health, 2005), with physical inactivity
and ultimately improve people's health.
Solution Essay / 2008
Heart rate is increasingly considered an independent risk factor
of cardiovascular disease (Ferrari et al., 2005), meaning it has a
significant contribution—among established risk factors—to an outcome like cardiovascular disease. Based on a study of 25,000
patients, resting heart rate was shown to be an independent
risk predictor of cardiovascular mortalities (Diaz et al., 2005). A
reduction in heart rate decreases the work of the heart; therefore, it decreases oxygen demand and energy needs of the heart while
simultaneously resulting in an increase in coronary blood flow.
That is, as resting heart rate decreases, the risk of death from
cardiovascular disease decreases.
In addition to lowering risk, a decrease in heart rate can improve
/ Figure 1 / Prevalence of Cardiovascular Diseases in Adults Age 20 and
cognition. When people feel better, they are less distracted by
Older by Age and Sex: 1999–2004 Source: NCHS and NHLBI.
their physical state, which can lead to better performance. A
relationship between heart rate and cognition was suggested by research conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, which revealed that a
Physical inactivity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,
deceleration in heart rate during the anticipatory period preceding
and it is becoming increasingly prevalent. It ranks similarly to
a task was associated with improved cognitive performance
cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol
(McCraty et al., 2006). And in the 1980s, researchers learned that
as contributors to heart ailments. When a person's activity level
a decreased heart rate allows the brain to receive sensory
declines, the rate of heart disease increases. What's more, less-
information more often, leading to better cognitive performance
active, less-fit persons have a 30 to 50 percent greater risk of
(McCraty et al., 2006).
developing high blood pressure (New York State Department of Health, 2008). Only 30.9 percent of U.S. adults report engaging in
leisure-time physical activity (American Heart Association, 2008).
People who don't engage in regular physical activity, and who spend
/ See Figure 2 / More than ever, people are opting for sedentary
a lot of time sitting, are already at risk for cardiovascular disease. If
activities rather than active ones.
they can lower their heart rate, they can reduce their risk (Freedman, 2008). It's not only a health-positive factor, meaning that lowering
the heart rate can improve one's health, but also a benefit to one's ability to think, since reduced heart rate is associated with improved
Work—and play—have changed dramatically since the early 1990s
as technology has come to dominate people's lifestyles. People tend
Hispanic or Latino
to sit too long without moving. In fact, many chairs restrict the body's movement. Ultimately the sitter's internal systems can be affected.
/ Figure 2 / Regular Leisure-time Physical Activity (Note: Regular physical
activity is defined as light–moderate activity for N 30 minutes, N 5 times
One approach to promoting movement in a work chair would be
per week; or vigorous activity for N 20 minutes, N 3 times per week.)
to design one with a dynamic seat and backrest. Doing so would
NH = non-Hispanic
Source: NHIS 2004. Data are age-adjusted for adults age 18+.
Sitting Can Be Good for the Circulatory System Solution Essay / 2
require a surface that automatically conforms to a sitter's micro-
Embody's narrow backrest, which was inspired by the human
movements and distributes weight evenly. This would allow the seat
spine, instinctively adapts to the unique shape and movement
to take on the greater burden of supporting more weight while
of the sitter's spine. It allows people to move freely and naturally,
providing stability. It would also reduce seated pressure and increase
automatically adjusting to changes in position and the full range of
blood circulation to improve oxygen flow and decrease heart rate.
postures. It supports the sitter during large, active movements as well as smaller, passive ones. A sitter's arms can move unimpeded
Another design aspect that would promote movement is the shape
back and forth, which encourages additional air movement into the
of the backrest. A work chair with an upwardly tapered backrest
lungs. / See Figure 3 /
would provide more flexibility to encourage torso movement and allow the sitter's arms to swing freely. Free to move, the sitter's chest
Underneath these innovations is the Embody tilt, the mechanism
cavity would open up more than in a chair with a conventional wide
under the seat that supports the body's natural motion without
backrest allows. As a result, unconstricted lungs could enable a sitter creating intrusive pivot points. Freedom of movement with full to take deeper breaths, thus requiring fewer breaths per minute.
support results from the tilt's three linked support zones: 1) thoracic, 2) pelvic/sacral, and 3) distal thigh. The zones work
Taken together, these features would promote movement while
as a system to encourage freedom of movement and avoid the
seated. And movement, as research has shown, is the key to good
problems associated with static postures, such as dehydration of
health. It keeps blood circulating and oxygen entering the lungs to
the discs in the spine.
feed the brain so people can think better.
To determine the health-positive effects of sitting in the Embody
chair, Herman Miller commissioned a research study that measured
The Embody chair was designed with an innovative Pixelated
six cardiopulmonary variables. All subjects (15 male, 16 female)
Support™ system, a matrix of pixels that work together in the seat
sat in an Embody chair and a conventional foam-based office chair
and backrest to conform to the sitter's movement. Its dynamic
with a wide backrest. They sat in each type of chair for at least
surface—a mat layer supported by a local spring layer in the seat
two hours. During that time, the following metabolic variables were
and "H-flexors" in the backrest—contours to the sitter's unique shape
to reduce seated pressure while providing stability.
• Heart Rate (HR) (beats/min)• Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER) (unitless)
The Embody chair's dynamic
• Respiratory Rate (RR) (breaths/min)
surface contours to the sitter's
• CO2 Output (liters/min) (ml/kg body wt/min)
unique shape, and the narrow
• Relative O2 Uptake (ml/kg body wt/min)
backrest allows the arms to move unimpeded.
• Tidal Volume (Vt) (liters/breath)
[Note: Ventilation is RR x Vt (ventilation is units of liters/min); RER is the
ratio of CO2 output to O2 uptake (both in units of liters/min).]
The order of the chairs was counterbalanced so about half the
subjects first sat in the Embody chair and then the conventional chair; the order of the chairs was reversed for the remaining subjects. The subjects were experienced computer users who performed typical office computer tasks while data was recorded in a laboratory setting. All subjects had to meet qualification criteria,
which included the following:
Sitting Can Be Good for the Circulatory System Solution Essay / 3
• Works with a computer for at least four hours per day
• 18 to 55 years old, inclusive
• No musculoskeletal injury or pain that would make it difficult to
participate in the study
• Free of respiratory illness, such as asthma
• No consumption of caffeine within one hour before testing
• No intake of medications that affect the heart from midnight of
previous day to time of testing
Results revealed for both genders that heart rates were
consistently lower during a majority of the tasks the subjects
engaged in while seated in the Embody chair versus the conventional chair. Compared with the conventional chair, heart
/ Figure 4 / Regression analysis, heart rate and weight; as subject weight
rates ranged from 2.6 to 3.4 fewer beats per minute (bpm) for
increases, improvements in heart rate while sitting in the Embody chair become more pronounced.
female subjects sitting in Embody while heart rates ranged from
4.6 to 7.9 fewer bpm for the male subjects (Papanek et al., 2008).
When the heart rate changes are extrapolated to an 8-hour
increased, which indicates that the Embody chair appeared to
workday, a 2 to 3 bpm difference adds up to 120 to 130 beats per
decrease heart rate more for large subjects than smaller subjects.
hour and over 1,000 beats per day.
/ See Figure 4 /
Extrapolation of the difference in beats per hour and day was
In another study comparing the Embody chair to two chairs
even more dramatic for males. This decrease in heart rate was
with foam seats and two chairs with suspension-material seats,
not a consequence of subjective comfort or opinion of the chair
Embody—with its innovative Pixelated Support system—performed
or a placebo. Because of the control methods used in the study,
better than other seat constructions in maintaining oxygen levels in
including the counterbalanced order of the chairs and all other
the tissues surrounding the ischial tuberosities—or "sit bones"—of
variables being equal, the significant decreases in heart rate can
the seated subjects (Mahksous et al., 2008). When pressure is
be attributed directly to the Embody chair—a cardiovascular benefit
reduced at the sit bones blood circulation is increased to the lower
extremities, which improves the flow of oxygen.
Furthermore, while no statistically significant effects of the chair's
This has two important consequences. First, the improved
design were associated with respiratory rate or tidal volume (the
oxygenation of the tissues requires less demand for more blood in
ability to take deeper breaths) for either males or females in the
the area. Second, the improved circulation helps return blood back
study, more analysis indicated that the Embody chair may be
to the heart (venous return) which makes it easier for the heart to
advantageous from a respiratory perspective for larger subjects,
pump (stroke volume). A higher stroke volume allows the heart to
particularly users with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 (defined
work at a slower pace (decreased heart rate) while still achieving
by the National Institute for Health as obese).
the goal of pumping needed oxygen to the tissue (cardiac output).
Thus, the heart performs more efficiently, pumping the same
Prediction of heart rate from BMI and weight indicated that
cardiac output but at a decreased heart rate and heart work.
the Embody chair reduced heart rate when compared to the conventional chair. In addition, the trend lines marking the Embody
Few chairs target the ability to improve physiological function
and conventional chair started to diverge as BMI and weight
for people in sedentary—specifically seated—postures. Embody
Sitting Can Be Good for the Circulatory System Solution Essay / 4
is the first chair design that significantly affects heart rate
McCraty, Rollin, Ph.D, Mike Atkinson, Dana Tomasino, and Raymond
across a variety of office tasks, resulting in a positive impact on
T. Bradley, Ph.D. The Coherent Heart: Heart-brain Interactions,
Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide
the cardiovascular system without altering work productivity. In
Order. Boulder Creek, CA: Institute of HeartMath, 2006.
combination with the results from previous studies examining tissue perfusion, the Embody chair demonstrates a unique ability
New York State Department of Health, <http://www.health.state.ny.us/
to enhance perfusion to the lower extremities while simultaneously
diseases/chronic/cvd.htm> (accessed October 16, 2008).
doing so at a decreased cardiac workload. The decrease in heart
Papanek, Marklin and Freier (2008), "Metabolic Study of Office Workers
work or decrease in heart rate can lead to a decrease in the risk of
Using an Office Chair," Marquette University Departments of Physical
Therapy and Mechanical Engineering, 2008.
cardiovascular disease for those who sit in the Embody chair, even as they move through the full range of postures.
PubMed Central (PMC), U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2005,
(accessed September 12, 2008).
The world of work—and play—demands more use of technology
every day. And people are getting more sedentary because of it. Sitters who use a chair that's good for the body by reducing the
risk of cardiovascular disease can improve their health as well as
Gretchen Gscheidle is a product researcher at Herman Mil er. Educated
their cognitive performance.
as an industrial designer, Gretchen now applies her creativity and problem-solving skil s in her role as researcher on cross-functional product development teams. She has been the research link in the company's
seating introductions beginning with the Aeron® chair in 1994. Her
Association AH. , editor. Heart Disease and Stroke. Statistics - 2005
research focuses on laboratory studies of pressure distribution, thermal
comfort, kinematics, and usability, as wel as field ethnography and user
8119HDSStats2005Update.pdf> (accessed September 12, 2008).
trials. Gretchen is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and represents Herman Mil er on the Office Ergonomics Research
Association AH. , editor. Heart Disease and Stroke. Statistics -
Committee. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals.
heart/1200082005246HS_Stats%202008.final.pdf> (accessed October
The late Bill Stumpf studied behavioral and physiological aspects of sitting
at work for more than 30 years. A specialist in the design of ergonomic seating, his designs include the Ergon® chair, introduced by Herman Miller
Diaz, A., Bourassa, M.G. and Guertin M.C. (2005). Long-term prognostic
in 1976 and, with Don Chadwick, the equally innovative Equa® and Aeron
value of resting heart rate in patients with suspected or proven coronary
chairs. He contributed significantly to the design of the Embody chair prior
artery disease. European Heart Journal, 26, 967-974.
to his death in 2006. In that same year, he posthumously received the
Ferrari, R., Camp, G., Gardini, E., Pasanisi, G. and Ceconi, C. (2005). Specific
National Design Award in Product Design presented by the Smithsonian's
and selective inhibition: expected clinical benefits from pure heart rate
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
reduction in coronary patients. European Heart Journal Supplements,
Jeff Weber credits his love of furniture design to working with Bill Stumpf,
who designed for Herman Miller for 30 years. Weber joined forces with Stumpf's Minneapolis firm in 1989. That led him to his association with
"Heartbeat an indicator of disease risk: study," Danny Rose,
Herman Miller. Weber worked with Stumpf on the Embody chair and, after
Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 2008, <http://www.smh.
Stumpf died in 2006, Weber evolved the design at his Minneapolis-based
Studio Weber + Associates. In addition to the Embody chair, Weber's
study/2008/08/31/1220121048825.html> (accessed September 12,
designs for Herman Miller include the Intersect® portfolio, Caper® seating,
and the Avive® table collection.
Mahksous, M, Lin F. Influence of chair designs on pressure distribution,
For more information about our products and services or to see a list of dealers,
tissue perfusion, and skin temperature, Departments of Physical Therapy
please visit us at www.HermanMiller.com or call (800) 851 1196.
& Human Movement Sciences, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation,
2009 Herman Miller, Inc. Zeeland, Michigan
Northwestern University, 2008.
® L, Aeron, Avive, Caper, Embody, Equa, Ergon, and Intersect are among the registered trademarks of Herman Miller, Inc.
™ Pixelated Support is among the trademarks of Herman Miller, Inc.
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JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY HOSPITAL NTERNAL MEDICINE PERSPECTIVES Non-ketotic hyperglycemia unmasks hemichorea Abhijeet Danve, MDSupriya Kulkarni, MD1 and Girja Bhoite, MD2 1Department of Internal Medicine, Metropolitan Hospital, New York Medical College, New York, NY, USA; 2Department of Internal Medicine, Medstar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC, USA