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A few months ago I herniated a disc in my lower back — and I’m only 28 years old. Physical trauma or exertion causes most spinal disc issues. Mine came from decades of slouching and excessive pressure on the lumbar region of my spine.
This is why it’s so important to invest in a high-quality office chair that promotes good posture, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day. Even if you feel fine right now, you could be damaging your discs. The thing about spinal disc deterioration is that it tends not to show symptoms until it’s too late.
If you work eight hours a day, five days a week, for 50 weeks a year, that’s 2,000 annual hours of sitting at your computer! A good office chair is expensive, but if you’re going to spend up to one-third of your life sitting in it, you better believe that the cost is well worth it.
You can find others that are priced higher than the Steelcase Gesture but don’t even bother. This is pretty much as good as it gets. Even if you spent another $500 or so, the potential gain would be negligible in the long run. The Gesture has everything you’d want in an office chair.
Most important, it’s comfortable and ergonomic. Its core equalizer provides the perfect amount of lumbar support depending on how much you recline. It also provides an incredible range of adjustments, particularly in the armrests — they can move up, down, in, out, and all around. All of this was born from Steelcase’s Global Posture Study, and the results speak for themselves.
And it looks clean, minimalistic, and professional. It’s available in eight beautiful and unique colors that can make any office pop with life. Backed by Steelcase’s 12-year warranty.
The Herman Miller Classic Aeron is perhaps the most well-known of the items on this list. It’s usually the first recommendation to pop up when someone starts looking into high-end office chairs. And it was the benchmark standard for all office chairs in the years prior to the Gesture’s debut.
This chair comes in sizes A, B, and C, which are designed for 5’4″/150 pounds, 5’10″/230 pounds, and 6’2″/300 pounds, respectively. It also uses a mesh-like texture for the seat and back — unlike most chairs that rely on foam, fabric, and leather — for breathability and temperature regulation. We also recommend getting the PostureFit model, which provides advanced spinal support.
Aesthetics-wise, it looks like any other office chair, and that’s fine. The only downside is the lack of a headrest. Other than that, it’s excellent. Backed by Herman Miller’s 12-year warranty.
If the Gesture and Aeron are too expensive for you, you can settle for the Steelcase Leap instead. But trust me. You’re not settling. The Leap beats all other chairs found in its price range. In fact, some even prefer the Leap over the Aeron because it provides better spinal support and is more adjustable.
This chair strikes the perfect balance between ergonomics and price. The LiveBack feature molds to the shape of your back, staying firm in the lower back while allowing for a respectable range for reclining. The lumbar support bar can even be moved to fit exactly where you need it, and the armrests can be positioned nearly however you want.
The Leap comes in six different colors, similar to (but not exactly) the same colors as the Gesture. It’s also backed by Steelcase’s 12-year warranty.
4. IKEA Markus
If you saw “IKEA” and immediately rolled your eyes, I don’t blame you. Most IKEA chairs are terrible for long-term comfort and spinal health, and we recommend staying away — except in the case of the IKEA Markus. Strangely enough, the Markus is surprisingly good for its price.
The headrest is comfortable, the lumbar support is passable, and the seat isn’t too deep. The mesh back is breathable, the foam seat is comfortable. The reclining mechanism can be locked at any point. And though the armrests aren’t adjustable, you can remove them if they get in the way and they won’t affect the chair’s integrity.
You can get the Markus for $20 cheaper if you opt for fabric rather than leather, bringing it down to $180. But even if you grab the leather version, this is some of the best bang-for-your-buck that you’ll find in the realm of office chairs. If $200 was my upper limit, I’d get this in a heartbeat.
If you want a chair that’ll last several years and stay comfortable the whole time, we don’t recommend going cheaper than the IKEA Markus. You won’t find anything satisfactory. But if you need a chair right now and you need to spend as little as possible, then the Space Seating Professional AirGrid can work.
It’s comfortable at first but will lose that within a year. While mesh backs are breathable, it will stretch and lose its shape over time. Do not get the mesh seat model — it will also stretch and ruin your posture. The armrests are acceptable: plastic, fine in short bursts, and adjustable up and down. You can remove them without affecting the chair’s integrity.
That being said, you won’t find a better chair at this price. Use it as a stopgap for one or two years, and during that time save up for one of the others on this list.
More Tips for a Healthier Spine
What about standing desks? Is a top-notch office chair necessary if you aren’t sitting eight hours a day? The answer is a resounding Yes. It’s actually poor form to use a standing desk 24/7 and one of the worst standing desks mistakes to make. You should alternate standing and sitting, and when sitting, you should do so in a properly designed chair.
Also, remember that you need to adjust the chair to your body. This means finding the ideal chair height, matched to your ideal desk height, all rounded out with your ideal monitor height and monitor distance. We’ve covered all of this in our guide to setting up an efficient workstation.
If you have a hunched back from long-term improper posture, start doing this 3-minute stretch right away. The best time to start fixing posture is always right now. Good posture isn’t just important for feeling healthier, it’s also crucial to feeling more confident — and you can’t put a price tag on either.
How’s your current posture? Are you ready to upgrade your office chair to one that’s worthy of supporting your spine? Are there any great chairs we missed? Let us know in the comments!