Mouse Reviews for the Ergonomically Adventurous

Here are 9 to 5 ergonomics, we’ve covered the subject of ergonomic mice pretty thoroughly. If you’re simply looking for a comfortable mouse that will get the job done, for instance, then look no further than our guide to the best ergonomic mouse.  We’ve also discussed peripheral topics such as how to mouse properly, how to prevent mouse elbow, and how to select the best ergonomic mouse pad for your setting.

One might conclude, then, that we have covered ergonomic mice from every conceivable angle and that there are no new subjects in the ergonomic mouse space to explore!  How incorrect you would be!

Today we’re taking a look at the most cutting-edge mice on the market.  These are not necessarily the most ergonomically minded, but instead what I would call the most “ergonomically adventurous.”  These cutting edge designs will define the next generation of computer interaction.  Or, they might be confined to the trash heap of “good ideas but failed.”  In either case, these devices are a glimpse into what could be the future.  So buckle up… and prepare for the top 3 mouse reviews for the ergonomically adventurous:

Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse

The Microsoft Arc Touch is one of the most innovative designs on the market.  The key to its design is its folding “arc” which allows you to quickly convert the flat device into something that resembles an ergonomic mouse.  The design is innovative, utilitarian, rugged and looks fantastic.  Once in the arc position, I had no trouble using the mouse like any other.  While one might expect quality to suffer in favor of portability, with the Arc Touch, you really get the best of both worlds: a high-quality mouse that is also portable when needed.  Sensitivity, build quality and feel were all spot on.  The only minor complaint I had was that the secondary functions were somewhat difficult to use.  Nevertheless, this is a top-notch wireless mouse, particularly for the travel minded.

Pros:
  • Portable ergonomic design – Easy to fold up and take anywhere.
  • Touch scroll wheel – Natural, easy to use scroll wheel that provides appropriate feedback.
  • Build Quality – Stylish and built from quality materials.
  • Tracking and Sensitivity – Sensitivity that gets the “feel” right.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity – Easy to connect, particularly useful for coffee shops and places where you need to be able to connect wirelessly.
Cons:
  • Secondary Functions – Side button is somewhat confusing and difficult to use.
  • AAA batteries – Would have preferred lithium batteries, particularly at this price point.

Apple Magic Trackpad 2 (MJ2R2LL/A)

If you’ve never used one of these, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past 5 years.  The Apple Magic Trackpad is the gold standard when it comes to trackpad interfaces.  Apple recently updated the design to be even more sleek with the Trackpad 2.

The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 is incredibly intuitive.  It almost makes me feel as though we’ve finally achieved all of the crazy marvels of the modern future that we dreamed about in the movie Minority Report 10 years ago!  Perhaps the most useful feature of the Magic Trackpad is the multitouch functionality. By mapping multitouch gestures such as “four finger swipe” or “two finger scroll” the Magic Trackpad allows you to do virtually anything you want from a single interface.

Some users complained that the Magic Trackpad requires a flat surface and that it occasionally had trouble waking up from sleep.  Personally, I’ve never had any problems, however.  When I’m not using my Logitech MX, this is the interface that I prefer to use.

Pros:
  • Touchpad – This the gold standard for touch pad interfaces.
  • Multitouch – Easy to use gestures for mac make the magic trackpad significantly more efficient than other options.
  • Build Quality – The Magic Trackpad is bulletproof, sleek and stylish.  Exactly what you’d expect from apple.
  • Tracking and Sensitivity – Intuitive.  Gets it right.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity – Not surprisingly, for mac users, works seamlessly.
Cons:
  • Requires a flat surface – Will tip if not flat, which can lead to unwanted clicks.
  • Wake Up – Some users complain that the touchpad does not seamlessly wake up.

Logitech MX Master Wireless/Bluetooth Mouse

Logitech MX

I am biased.  Full disclaimer.  However, the Logitech MX is literally the best mouse I’ve ever used.  It is sleek, smooth, rugged, has a battery that lasts for weeks, feels good in my palm, works on any surface, has controls that are intuitive and easy to use, connects wirelessly… I could go on and on.  In short, if it were up to me, I’d just say “buy this mouse.”  And, of course, that’s exactly what I did.  I put it on this list because, while it is a “traditional mouse” in some ways, it is also so far ahead of the competition that it will be a leader for years to come.

Still, there are those who will point out the Logitech MX’s flaws.  The tertiary buttons are a bit difficult to use.  To be honest, I rarely find myself using them at all.  I’d just as soon they’d left them of.  In any event, if that’s your biggest complaint, you’re doing pretty well.  I love this thing.

Pros:
  • Precise Tracking –On any surface, from glass to textures, the MX Master tracks seamlessly.
  • Bluetooth OR USB connectivity – Either one works, which is great for PC and Mac Users
  • Easy Connections to Multiple Computers – The MX Master actually allows you to switch between multiple computers without having to establish a new connection.
  • Lithium Polymer Batteries – Doesn’t waste batteries or time.  Just hook it up via USB and the batteries will charge.  I’ve found that the mouse will run for weeks on a single charge.
  • Ergonomic Design – Literally the best ergonomically designed mouse on the market (in my humble opinion)
Cons:
  • Strange tertiary button feel – Somewhat difficult to use and press.
  • Horizontal/Thumb – Scroll feels a bit rough in comparison to other mice I’ve used
  • Price – Not exactly a value mouse, but not unreasonable either.

DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair Review

Continuing our series on ergonomic chairs for gamers, today we’re taking a look at the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair.  DXRacer has a particularly interesting story in that the company actually started in the automotive industry.  Founded in 2003, DXRacer sought to build high-end, high-quality, performance seats for racecars.  Due to their success and stellar reputation in the auto industry, they have been able to branch out into other niches such as office and gaming chairs.

The first thing you notice about the DXRacer chairs is the clear racing heritage.  Particularly when it comes to gaming chairs, the padding, bolsters, shape and finish are all inspired heavily by their automotive counterparts.  The racing heritage is fantastic because it means that DXRacer chairs will stand up to even the most intense gaming sessions.  After all, if they can survive the temperatures and abuse they receive on the race track, surely, they can handle a few sessions of Gran Turismo or Grand Theft Auto.

Another fantastic feature of DXRacer chairs is the wide variety of shapes, styles and designs.  DXRacer produces 6 lines of gaming-oriented chairs.  They are the F, R, K, D, I and M lines.  The apparently random naming conventions aside, the variety of options means that you can really dial in exactly the fit and style that you want.  As a quick guide:

  • F Series: The smallest chairs available, targeting individuals not taller than 5′ 11″
  • R Series: Aimed towards tall and slender body types.
  • K Series: Wide and large, supports up to 300 lbs.
  • D Series: The most padded chair available, broad shoulders.
  •  I Series: Firmest padding available.
  • M Series: Most similar to an executive chair, padded without a fitted race car feel.

Today, we’re specifically looking at the DXRacer Formula (F) Series Bucket Chair, but it’s nice to know that there are a wide range of other chairs available from DXRacer.

By far, the best feature of the Formula Series chairs is the build quality and materials.  The chair is not made from real leather, but it feels as though it could be.  The polyurethane leather-type material is durable, breathable, comfortable and looks fantastic.  Given the race-inspired design, it’s not surprising that the DXRacer chairs are some of the most highly praised chairs on the market for their ability to stand the test of time.

Unlike other gaming chairs, the Formula Series chairs are elevated off the ground, in a similar fashion to an office chair.  The chair rolls around on casters, which is fantastic if you’re looking for chair that is portable.  The Formula Series is as adjustable as any gaming chair that I’ve come across in both height and recline (tilt lock).  Even the arm wrests are adjustable, which is great because I’ve often found them to be more of a hinderance than a functional feature when it comes to proper mousing technique.  The F-Series chairs can even be used as an office chair replacement if need be.  You might even win some style points, given the chair’s modern automotive-inspired design.

The one caveat to the DXRacer’s apparent perfection is that it is a bit small for me.  I am rather tall and slender at 6′ 3″, and the F-Series appears to be aimed at those who are 5′ 11″ or so and below.  Perhaps I would have been better off with an R-Series chair.  With that said, the padding quality was fantastic, and even I could get by with the F-Series for short tasks.

Pros of the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair:

  • Build Quality – The DXRacer is built from a solid steel frame and top-notch materials.
  • Leather-Like Feel – The polyurethane leather is soft, breathable and feels nice.
  • Appearance – Modern looking, race inspired, stylish.
  • Adjustability – Adjustable in height, tilt-lock and arm wrest height.

Cons of the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair:

  • Sizing – Does not fit taller individuals.  However, DXRacer offers several other models that do, including the R Series.

Final Conclusion

The DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair is one of the highest-quality chairs for gamers on the market.  The materials, durability and build quality are second to none.  It also looks really cool, which is to be expected given the company’s history in the race car industry.

Check Price

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a high-quality gaming chair that can also be used in the office, give the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair a shot!

X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair Review

9 to 5 ergonomics started as a blog dedicated to ergonomics in the workplace.  We’ve looked at the best ergonomic office chairs, the best ergonomic mice and the best standing desks on the market.  We haven’t really branched out from the office place, however.  Today I am going to take a look at the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Gaming Chair, which is definitely not an office chair.  Instead, it is an all-encompassing, top-of-the-line gaming chair for the hardcore gamers.

So why am I writing about a gaming chair on an ergonomics blog?  Well, it turns out that ergonomics matter for gamers too.  In fact, given the constant and high-speed repetitive motions involved in many modern games, ergonomics may be even more important for console gamers seeking to avoid RSI injuries than those spending their time doing relatively slower paced office tasks.

X Rocker is a top-notch chair manufacturer that has been in business since 2005.  They focus primarily on designing and building comfortable chairs aimed towards gaming, music listening and other multi-media settings.  The X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Gaming Chair is a top of the line model aimed specifically towards gamers with a particular emphasis on audio and comfort.

The 51396 features several ergonomically minded features.  While the chair is soft, it is not what I would call plush.  Instead, it provides ample lumbar support, and is tall enough to also provide a headrest.  The chair comes with arm wrests, though as I’ve written before, you may want to ditch them as they tend to interfere with natural movement patterns and can actually cause more problems than they solve.  In addition, the arm wrests are not of particularly high quality and are not padded.  All the more reason to ditch them.

As one might expect, the 51396 audio quality is top notch.  The chair includes two speakers and a ported subwoofer, which provide plenty of volume for even the most serious gamers.  The 51396 can even connect with other chairs for those who want to take their gaming with friends to another level.  The chair can receive audio via the provided wireless transmitter that hooks into your existing sound system via RCA cables.  The control panel allows you to independently adjust the bass and treble volume levels and also provides an auxiliary RCA output if you’d like to connect to other audio devices.  One thing to note is that the chair is actually capable of providing what I would describe as “too much volume.”  That is, the speakers can produce sounds that are loud enough to cause damage to your hearing over longer periods of time, so be sure to keep the volume at a reasonable level if you want to be able to hear in your later years!

The 51396 allows you tilt and swivel, and comes with a pedestal that positions the chair up high enough that your legs can extend comfortably.  It does not, however, recline as much as other more couch-like chairs on the market.  Though reclining can be an ergonomically advantageous position in some cases, soft couches tend not to provide a great deal of lower back support, which can have a negative impact on the spine.  The 51396, on the other hand, fully supports the back and positions you slightly more upright as a consequence.

 Pros of the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair:

  • Setup – Out of the box, the X Rocker 51396 can be up and running in less than 30 minutes.
  • Back Support – Ample lumbar support and even includes a headrest.
  • Appearance – Modern looking, and stylish.
  • Built in Speakers – Clear, high-end speakers deliver quality audio.

Cons of the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair:

  • Recline – Does not recline particularly far if that is a preferred position.
  • Arm Wrests  – Cheap, unpadded and unnecessary.

Final Conclusion

The X Rocker 51396 is a top of the line chair for a gamer that wants all the bells and whistles.  Unlike a couch, the 51396 provides an immersive gaming experience while also providing an ergonomic design.  The wireless audio quality is as good as any stereo system and is designed a particular eye towards gaming.  If you are looking for a high-quality chair that will support your gaming habits, this may be the one.

Check Price

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a top of the line gaming chair at a reasonable price, try out the X Rocker 51396.

 

The Best Ergonomic Mouse Pad

Today I am going to do something out of the norm and talk about mouse pads.  Why mouse pads?  Well, the interesting thing about a mouse pad is that you shouldn’t ever need one.  I’ve written extensively in the past about why it is important to mouse from the arm instead of the wrist.  Theoretically, then, a mouse pad is an unnecessary expense, because if you are mousing properly, there is nothing to “pad.”  Your mouse is the pad.

With that said, there are still some reasons that you might want to consider purchasing a comfortable mouse pad:

Better Tracking

Though mice have gotten better at tracking on imperfect surfaces, they still aren’t perfect.  A mouse pad on a glass or textured desk may help the mouse track more accurately, which in turn means fewer movements.  Fewer movements means fewer repetitive motions and a reduced likelihood of developing and RSI injury.

Rests Between Mousing

In some cases, you may want to rest your wrist briefly between mouse movements.  For instance, you might be reading an article and scrolling using the mouse wheel.  During these periods of time, its fine to rest your wrist on a mouse pad with an integrated wrist wrest.  Just remember to lift your wrist once you begin mousing again.  For some folks, the wrist wrest may be too tempting, so I would only recommend going this route if you have developed sufficient muscle memory to mouse properly.

Protects Your Desk

Though not strictly a mouse-pad consideration, a good mouse pad can prevent you from scratching the beautiful rosewood top on your luxury office desk.

Given that there are some reasonable reasons for purchasing an ergonomic mouse pad, here are some things to look for when making such a purchase.  Or, if you prefer to just cut to the chase, click here for our #1 choice on Amazon.

Key Factors to Consider:

Quality

Look for a mouse pad that is built in such a way that it wont fall apart.  Some mouse pads are constructed with plastic that wears out quickly.  Pay particular attention to seams and construction materials.  For instance, mouse pads that are glued together with poor adhesives that are not reinforced may fall apart.

Anti-Slip Base

The last thing you want is a mouse pad that slides around on your desk.  Seek out a mouse pad that has a good, firm anti-slip base.  Typically these mouse pads use a special gum-rubber on the bottom that grips the mousing surface well.

Wrist Wrest (Or Not)

As mentioned above, a wrist wrest is a matter of preference.  For those who do prefer to have a wrist wrest, make sure that it is comfortable and will not interfere with proper mousing technique.  Others may explicitly prefer mouse pads without a wrist wrest in order to encourage better mousing technique.

Mousing Surface

The key here is minimal friction.  The less force required in order to move the mouse, the less likely you are to overshoot mousing targets and the fewer movements you will need to make.  In addition, look for a mousing surface that allows your mouse to track properly.  Since nearly all mice are now optical, this means that some texture on the mousing surface may be desirable, though not so much that it creates friction.

Best Ergonomic Mouse Pads 2016:

  1. Seenda Aluminium Mouse Pad with Non-Slip Rubber Base (Check Price >>)
  2. Belkin WaveRest Gel Mouse Pad (Check Price >>)
  3. Belkin 8″x9″ Mouse Pad (Check Price >>)

Seenda Aluminium Mouse Pad with Non-Slip Rubber Base

(Check Price >>)

Pros:

  • Non-Slip Backing – The backing materials on the Seenda mouse pad are top-notch.
  • High Quality Materials – Whether its the aluminum bevel, or the precise mousing surface, the materials on the Seenda are top of the line.
  • Additional Area – The uncovered portion of the mouse pad gives you room for pens or other items.
  • Sleek Design – Good looking and easy to clean.

Cons:

  • Tracking – Some users reported tracking issues with particular Logitech mice.

Belkin WaveRest Gel Mouse Pad

(Check Price >>)

Pros:

  • Non-Slip Backing – The gel material of the Belkin WaveRest prevents the mouse pad from sliding.
  • Integrated Wrist Wrest – Provides wrist support when not mousing.

Cons:

  • Build Quality – Some users have reported that the mouse pad wore out too quickly..
  • Pad Conformance – The wrist pad does not conform to the wrist, merely supports the wrist.

Belkin 8″x9″ Mouse Pad

(Check Price >>)

Pros:

  • Value – The basic Belkin mouse pad, provides excellent value at an affordable price point.
  • No Frills – For those that prefer functionality over looks, this is the most basic and functional mouse pad on the market.

Cons:

  • Appearance – Not much going here, just a basic mouse pad.

Conclusion

More so that most computer purchases, the ideal mouse pad is truly a matter of preference.  At such affordable price points, you might even consider buying a couple, trying them out, and using the one that you find most comfortable and injury prone.

The Best Ergonomic Kneeling Chairs

At 9 to 5 ergonomics, we like to talk about ergonomic chairs.  Recently, we discussed the best ergonomic office chairs on the market as well as the the best office chairs under 200 dollars in the value segment.  We’ve also started looking at more niche products, such as the best chairs for gamers.  Today, we’re continuing our look at the niche chair market with our guide to the best ergonomic kneeling chairs.

Kneeling chairs are not a particularly new concept, but the design of kneeling chairs has evolved dramatically over the past few years.  The kneeling chair attempts to resolve three key problems with typical office chairs.

First, typical office chairs have a bad habit of placing the spine in a rounded position.  Though a rounded back position can be alleviated by focusing on proper sitting technique, the reality is that many Americans lack the core strength and flexibility to sit properly.  A kneeling chair inherently promotes a better spinal posture by removing the back support found on office chairs and positioning the hips in a more forward position, thereby encouraging a posture somewhere between that of sitting and standing.

Second, a more upright posture improves diaphragm position and promotes more efficient breathing.  This is particularly important when working at a desk job that requires deep concentration.  Often we neglect our regular breathing patterns and other natural rhythms such as blinking when we are intensely focused at work.  By sitting more upright and by opening up the diaphragm, a kneeling chair may actually improve breathing as well.

Lastly, a kneeling chair will naturally strengthen core muscles over time because the muscles of the abdominals and lower back are forced to support the torso rather than relying on a chair frame for support.  This can be a double edged sword initially, because although we want to strengthen the postural core muscles, overdoing things off the bat before these muscles have had time to acclimate can actually promote poor posture instead.

With that said, this guide will go over some of the most important things to consider when purchasing a kneeling chair.  Or, if you prefer to cut to the chase, click here to see our #1 pick on Amazon.com.

Top 3 Best Chairs for Kneeling Chairs 2016:

Key Factors to Consider When Buying a Kneeling Chair:

Kneeling chairs are completely different from typical office chairs.  Completely.  Whereas office chairs are defined by bells and whistles, in many ways the ideal kneeling chair is minimalistic.  As mentioned above, the philosophy behind the kneeling chair is that it strips features away, thereby engaging the core muscles that support proper posture.

That’s not to say that many of the same considerations don’t apply.  Here are the 3 most important factors to consider when buying a kneeling chair.

Ergonomics

It comes as no surprise that this is first on our list of considerations.  It might be tempting to assume that all kneeling chairs have similar ergonomics.  Not so.  Kneeling chairs still vary greatly in terms of the resting angles and body types that they support.  Seek out a kneeling chair that is comfortable and fits you.  That means that it ought to be adjustable over a range of positions that fit your particular body dimensions and workspace preferences.

Support

Not too firm, not too soft is the name of the game here.  Whereas I typically look for firm support in an office chair, and soft cushioning in chairs designed for reclining and comfort, with a kneeling chair, you really want the best of both worlds.  Kneeling chairs need to be supportive, particularly in the knees and seat cushion.  However, due to their design, kneeling chairs need to support your full body weight.  Therefore, cushioning is particularly important in the knees.  Seek a kneeling chair that is soft enough so as to avoid pressure points, but still provides adequate support where you need it.

Build Quality

Because kneeling chairs are relatively simplistic, one might think that build quality doesn’t matter.  It turns out that it matters a lot.  In fact, the build quality is probably the single biggest factor when it comes to the way that a kneeling chair will perform over the long term in improving posture.  If you are stuck with a flimsy kneeling chair, it is unlikely that the chair will provide the lower body support required in order to develop core musculature.  Not to mention, poorly constructed chairs tend to be uncomfortable, which means you probably just won’t use it.

Our Favorite Kneeling Chairs:

1. Flash Furniture Mobile Wooden Ergonomic Kneeling Chair

Pros:

  • Build Quality – The wooden frame and grey cloth design is, simply put, fantastic.
  • Portable – The caster design of the Flash Furniture kneeling chair is a differentiating feature.
  • Appearance – Looks great in any setting.
  • Angles – Unique design allows all angles to change as you raise and lower chair.

Cons:

  • Padding – Despite the quality materials, the padding is  bit more firm than other chairs on the market.

2. Boss B248 Ergonomic Kneeling Stool

Pros:
  • Adjustability – The Boss B248 features a pneumatic system to raise and lower, which allows you to really dial in exactly the position you prefer.
  • Padding – The padding on the Boss 248 is top notch.  Soft, but supportive memory foam.

Cons:

  • Appearance  – The black metal frame flies under the radar, but is nothing to write home about.
  • Quality Control – Hit or miss build quality according to some reports.

Work Smart Ergonomically Designed Knee Chair

Pros:
  • Casters – Allows chair to be moved around relatively easily.

Cons:

  • Padding Quality and Support  – Padding wears out quickly and is too soft to support the knees properly.
  • Sizing – Too large for shorter folks

Conclusion

Kneeling chairs are inherently a very personal purchase and ideally you can try out a couple designs before landing on the one that suits you best.  With that said, the Flash Furniture and Boss 248B are both fantastic kneeling chairs that will work for a wide range of folks looking to mix things up at work.  Just remember to not overdo it off the bat and you should see postural improvements within a few weeks.  Happy shopping!

The Best Chair for Gamers

Here at 9 to 5 ergonomics, we’ve written a lot about office and executive chairs.  In fact, we have a guide specifically outlining the best ergonomic chairs on the market.  We’ve also looked at the value segment in our guide to the best ergonomic chair under 200.  We haven’t, however, spent a lot of time looking at other niche chair markets.  Today, we’re doing a run down of the best chairs for gamers.

This guide will go over some of the most important things to consider when purchasing a gaming chair.  Or, if you prefer to cut to the chase, click here to see our #1 pick on Amazon.com.

Top 3 Best Chairs for Gamers 2016:

Key Factors to Consider When Buying an Chair for Gaming:

When considering the purchase of a gaming chair, it is tempting to merely apply the same criteria one might use when purchasing an office chair.  Some of the same criteria are worth considering, but nowadays, there are a number of bells and whistles specifically geared towards hardcore gamers that can really make a difference in your gaming experience.

Ergonomics

It comes as no surprise that the ergonomics of a gaming chair is the first thing that I consider in a chair.  In some ways, I look for the same features I would look for in an office chair: adequate lumbar support, comfortable seat cushioning and a reasonably molded design.

However, the movement patterns in the office are very different from the movement patters involved in gaming.  In particular, it is not nearly as important to be able to work in a “lean forward” sort of position.  Therefore, you might consider how the chair reclines when evaluating whether a chair is ergonomically suitable.  Many gaming chairs offer adjustable tilt and back support.

As with an office chair, the usefulness of arm wrests on a gaming chair is debatable.  If you do purchase a chair with arm wrests, make sure that they are adjustable for situations where you do not want to have them in the way.

Finally, many gaming chairs are designed to be used in a relined position close to the floor, similar to the way that one might sit in a low slung sports car.  There is nothing wrong with these chairs, but it is worth considering whether this is your preferred position, or whether your gaming activities are more suited to a traditional chair.

Firmness

Whereas firm support is almost always desirable in an office chair, it’s not always the case that we want a firm gaming chair.  Yes, it is always important to properly support your back.  However, while reclined, the chair will naturally provide a reasonable amount of back support, and therefore you might consider purchasing a chair that is softer, which may be more comfortable.

Speakers

Many gaming chairs now come with built in speakers.  Some chairs even feature wireless capabilities, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the gaming experience without the hassle of plugging in wires.  These chairs bring you closer to the action of your games, but can also be unnecessary if you already have a sufficient stereo system attached to your gaming platform of choice.  Since many console gamers already have immersive home stereos, built in speakers may be an unnecessary expense.

Adjustability

Though there is a bit more wiggle room when it comes to gaming chairs, it is still nice to be able to dial in exactly the angles that you prefer.  Look for a gaming chair with adjustable tilt and back support.  Some gaming chairs also offer volume controls for the built in speakers and other nice perks.

Our Favorite Chairs for Gamers:

1. X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair


 Pros:
  • Setup – The X Rocker is easy to get set up and going without much fuss
  • Back Support – The X Rocker provides quite a bit of back support.
  • Appearance – Sleek, modern appearance with racecar like textured backing.
  • Built in Speakers – Clear, bluetooth sound
  • Vibration Functionality – Immersive vibration feature

Cons:

  • Recline – Recline is somewhat more limited than might be expected from a chair at this price point.
  • Arm Wrests  – Arm wrests not of particularly high quality (but you didn’t want those anyway, right?)

2. DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair

Pros:
  • Build Quality – The DXRacer is made from incredibly high quality materials that will last a lifetime.
  • Back Support – Ergonomic back support, similar to that found on the Aeron and other high quality office chairs.
  • Appearance – Looks like a racing char, great for the Gran Turismo crowd.
  • Neck Support – Chair is tall enough and ergonomically designed to provide neck and head support as well.
  • Recline – Provides sufficient recline for gaming.

Cons:

  • Arm Wrests  – Arm wrests leave a lot to be desired, hard and flimsy.
  • No Built In Speakers – Lacks built in speakers

X Rocker 5172601 Surge Bluetooth 2.1 Sound Gaming Chair

Pros:
  • Built in Speakers – Clear, bluetooth sound
  • Back Support – Sufficient back support
  • Affordability – A good value, reasonably priced compared to other top gaming chairs.

Cons:

  • Padding Quality  – Padding wears out quickly.
  • Heavy – Difficult to move around

Conclusion

The value of a gaming chair is in the eye of the beholder.  Many folks will likely prefer to just game on their couch.  However, if you are a hardcore gamer like I am, it might be worth purchasing a dedicated gaming chair.  You can’t go wrong with any of the chairs on our list today.  Happy Gaming!

5 Ways to Improve Your Posture

Posture can be a tricky animal.  On the one hand, poor posture is not a emergency in the same way that, say, a broken arm requires an immediate trip to the hospital.  We can go about our day to day lives with poor posture, and in many cases we might not even notice.  Poor posture is particularly insidious because it is often developed over time due to years and years of poor habits.

That’s not to say that poor posture is not a big deal.  Going through life hunched over can affect your breathing and general well being.  It can affect your mood.  It can even impact the way that others perceive you in the workplace.  Maintaining good posture is important for healthy living, and thats what I am taking a closer look at how to improve posture today.

Because the body tends to adapt to the positions and movement patterns that it encounters most frequently, poor posture can be learned (and unlearned!).  It is part musculoskeletal, part neuromuscular and part mental.  It is really the confluence of pretty much every facet of the body.  Consequently, there is no one sort of training that can improve posture in itself.  Instead, I’ve personally found that a multi-faceted approach tends to work best.  Here are 5 techniques you can use to improve your posture, some of which you might not have thought of immediately.  In my opinion, it is worth trying them all!

Foam Rolling

When we talk about poor posture, we’re often talking about postural kyphosis, a head-forward posture that mimics the position that we commonly take in front of a computer monitor.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, kyphosis can often start at the hips, which form the baseline of the kinetic chain.  It then continues up the kinetic chain to the shoulders and neck.

Computer Hunch

Computer Hunch

A foam roller can be used to release muscles that become tight while sitting.  Start by using the foam roller to release the hip flexors.  Then, move up the kinetic chain to the upper back.

Strength Training

I’ve already written quite a bit about strength training as a means to improve posture.  In short, we want to strengthen the muscles that oppose movement patterns reinforced by computer work.  Typically, that means the primary muscles of the posterior kinetic chain including the glutes, lats and hamstrings.

Posterior Kinetic Chain

My favorite exercises for doing so are squats, deadlifts and pull ups.  However, there are all sorts of other exercises you might try, including rows, hamstring curls, glute bridges and even cleans for the more advanced lifters.

Meditation

This is an interesting one.  Many folks tend to focus only on the immediately visible, physical indicators of poor posture.  However, posture is also mental, and in some cases reinforced by tension and negative attitudes about ones self.

Meditation can help relieve anxiety and refocus your energy towards positive ends.  It can relax the body, which in turn relaxes the shoulders, allowing you to more naturally place your shoulder blades down and back.  Don’t ignore mental health as a critical component of overall health!

Stretching

Stretch the hip flexors!  Stretch the pectoral muscles!  Stretch your neck and back!  Stretch when you wake up.  Stretch before you go to bed!  Stretch at work!  Get up and stretch whenever you can!

Last week, I talked a bit about how the single most important factor in improving workplace health is to move around.  No fancy workout routine, ergonomic device, food supplement, meditation guru or medical procedure is a replacement for simply moving around more.  Getting up to stretch every few minutes is the single best thing you can do to improve your range of motion in the workplace, and therefore your learned movement patterns and posture.  Particularly, you want to focus on stretches that counteract movement patterns you are learning while not stretching:

Sleep (Well)

We spend roughly a third of a time on this planet sleeping.  Therefore, it makes sense consider the position in which you place your body while catching some z’s.  Many folks may sleep with too many pillows or in a position that actually counteracts the posture work that we are doing during the day.

Consider purchasing a firmer mattress and sleeping on your back.  Doing so will naturally reinforce a proper posture by aligning your head, neck, back, torso and legs.  After all, the ideal posture is essentially a position in which you can imagine a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.

In addition, by reducing the number of pillows you use, you may be able to avoid positioning your head awkwardly, or forward in a manner than mimics the head-forward position reinforced by computer work.

Conclusion

There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say, and posture work is no exception.  Give these various approaches a try, and see which ones work best for you.  Personally, I have adopted all of these.  Poor posture is developed over time, and therefore will not disappear over time.  However, by taking steps such as those outlined above, we can gradually improve our posture for healthier living.

 

To Go Ergonomic, Or Not?

The first “ergonomic” device I can recall purchasing was the Evoluent Ergonomic Mouse.  I had struggled for months with a nagging tendonitis in my wrist, and figured there was nothing to lose in trying out a vertical mouse.  The results were mixed, but I do believe that switching to a vertical mouse helped heal my injury.  Paired with stretching, icing and other tools to prevent tendonitis, I was able to get my wrist pain to a point that it was manageable.

The Evoluent was ahead of its time and became a classic that inspired dozens of other vertical mouse designs, many of which we have detailed in our guide to the best ergonomic mice.  It is based on science and an understanding of the biomechanics of the wrist.  In short, it’s not a product created by a bunch of pseudo-doctors for late-night tv infomercials.

Recently, however, I’ve encountered more and more ergonomic products that look like this:

Hamster wheel desk

The hamster wheel desk – dubious value.

Yeah, this guy literally built a hamster wheel to replace his desk.  Does this thing work?  Maybe.  Is it ridiculous?  Yes.

I mean, yes… moving around in the workplace is really, really important.  And, yes… working in a hamster wheel does accomplish that goal.  However, the hamster wheel is more “show than go” as they say.

Hamster-wheel-guy reflects what I believe to be an increasingly worrisome trend among ergonomic devices on the market.  In essence, we’re focusing too much on goofy appearances and things that we believe will work, and not enough on science, biomechanics and clinical studies to guide what does work.  I am worried that we are becoming snake oil salesmen.

Here are some guidelines to make sure that your ergonomic-oriented purchases will provide real value.

Does this device address a specific pain point?

As one might expect, a reasonable starting point might be to consider whether your purchase is addressing your specific needs.  Don’t just evaluate the device on a superficial level (i.e. I have wrist pain and this device “helps” wrist pain).  Instead, try to evaluate the device in terms of the biomechanical patterns that it targets.  For instance:

  • Is my injury caused by repetitive stress to a particular muscle or tendon?  If so, does this device encourage a wider variety of movement patterns for that extremity?
  • Is my injury caused by a pressure point in my existing furniture with regard to a specific muscle group or joint?  If so, does this device do a better job of distributing pressure outside of that muscle group or joint?
  • Is my injury caused by a lack of movement in my lower torso?  If so, does this device encourage me to get up or move my legs more?

Hopefully the answer to one of these questions is “yes.”  If the answer is “no,” then there is no point in wasting your money.  Instead, find a device that is tailored more specifically to your pain points (literally!).

Does this device “make sense”?

There are a bunch of laser hair-removal caps on the market.  These caps address a specific pain point in hair loss, but the likelihood that shooting a bunch of lasers into your scalp is going to magically give you a full head of hair is essentially zero (sorry guys!).

Similarly, you want to make sure you’re buying an ergonomic device that will actually address your ailment. For instance, if you’re suffering from an RSI injury, seek out a device that will reduce the number of times that you go through the particular movement pattern that is causing you grief.

In practice, this may mean diving into various medical studies or looking closely at anatomy charts.  Just a small bit of background research may help you avoid dropping a bunch of cash on a device that provides dubious benefits.

Does this device accomplish its goal in a minimalistic way?

Personally, I want a device that will get the job done and not much more.  Granted, some folks prefer a lot of bells and whistles, but, in practice, I’ve found  the bells and whistles to detract from the core functionality of many ergonomic products.

The xClubby Ergonomic Workstation

The xClubby Ergonomic Workstation — Ergonomics to Excess

Hamster guy is a perfect example of an ergonomic product gone extreme.  While his invention likely “works,” it is overkill for a problem that can be solved through taking periodic walks to the water cooler or, in the extreme, with a treadmill desk.  The hamster wheel is particularly egregious, but I’ve seen similar frills incorporated into ergonomic mice, standing desks, ergonomic chairs and other ergonomic devices.  Often these frills add quite a bit to the price tag, but not a whole lot to the functionality of the device.

With that said, if you prefer the hamster wheel approach, go for it!  But, do so with the understanding that you are essentially buying flashiness over substance.

Conclusion

The market for ergonomic devices is a real industry that provides real benefits to real people.  However, as with any medical or health related purchase, one must be careful to fully evaluate the claims made by ergonomic device manufacturers.  Unfortunately, marketing and frills can sometimes overwhelm the core substance of what these devices seek to accomplish, leaving consumers confused and without an understanding of what they are actually purchasing.  With some basic research, you can avoid these pitfalls, and make healthier, more informed buying decisions.

Why Use a Standing Desk?

I’m going state something considered heresy among ergonomics aficionados these days.  A standing desk will not, in itself, improve your posture, cardiac health, strength, or any other health-related metric.  In fact, if used improperly, a standing desk can lead to joint problems, back problems and other injuries.  That’s because a standing desk is not a medical device.  It is a tool that can be used properly or improperly.  When used properly, it can provide a number of health benefits, but only if used properly.

The Problem With Sitting

In order to understand what that means, it is worth considering the problems that standing desks seek to address and the ways in which a standing desk can help address those problems.  I’ve written extensively about why sitting for long periods of time is bad for you.  In short, the body tends to adapt the positions and movement patterns that it encounters most frequently.  If you were to only train your right arm, for instance, you might expect your right arm to grow stronger than your left arm.  Similarly, if you spend all of your time sitting, it is not surprising that the body will begin to “adapt” to sitting.

Sitting for long periods of time primarily impacts your health in two ways .  First, sitting can negatively impact cardiac health.  Too much sitting is directly linked to heart disease and other circulatory issues.  Second, sitting can promote unhealthy muscle imbalances.  Because a chair supports a portion of your body weight, muscles that might be activated while standing can grow weak while sitting.  In addition, the sitting position itself tends to shorten muscles which are tied to joints that are put in flexion.  The lower back, glutes, hip flexors, abs and obliques tend to be most impacted.  These muscle imbalances can result in what I call computer hunch, a head forward slouching position that rounds out the top of the back and tends to reinforce an anterior pelvic tilt:

Computer Hunch

Computer Hunch

Standing Desks Can Improve Cardiovascular Health

Standing desks can promote activities that counteract the biggest risks of sitting all day at work.  In terms of cardiac health, a number of recent studies have shown that the fundamental problem with desk work is that it involves a lack of movement for most of the body.  Even small movements throughout the day can go a long way towards counteracting a sedentary job.

So the thinking goes that, by standing at work, you are more likely to fidget or make so-called “micro-movements,” thereby keeping your muscles active.  You might take a quick walk to the water cooler or take a sales call while walking around the office rather than staying at your desk.  These small breaks and movements can make a huge difference.  In fact, several studies have shown exercise is not nearly as important as continual movement throughout the day.  According to researchers at the University of Toronto, chances of dying of heart disease or cancer were more or less the same between those who exercised regularly and those who did not.  Indeed, the evidence seems to suggest that while exercise is important, we also need to stay mobile throughout the day, even while performing non-aerobic activities.

But… and this is a BIG but… standing all day is also not particularly good for you.  According to Cornell University, standing can actually be bad for those already prone to certain types of heart disease.  It is also linked to an increased likelihood of developing varicose veins.  Furthermore, it requires more energy to stand than to sit, about twice as much according to Time Magazine.  While burning calories can be a good thing for those who are overweight, if it comes at the cost of additional fatigue at work, it can negatively impact fine motor skills and concentration.

Standing Desks Can Improve Posture

We know that sitting reinforces computer hunch, but does standing help?

It turns out that standing desks can help counteract muscle imbalances, if used properly.  Remember that when using a standing desk, it is important to still focus on proper standing desk posture.  That is, one must still work to maintain neutral arms, neck and back when working at a standing desk.  The problem is that moving to a standing desk places new stresses on the muscles that may have become weak from sitting.

Proper Standing Posture

How to stand up straight when using a standing desk.

If you make the transition to a standing desk cold-turkey, the result may be injury rather than improved posture.  In fact, as the muscles that are critical for proper standing posture grow tired, one is likely to slouch or lean on the desk, which can actually reinforce the very problems the standing desk seeks to counteract.

So What Then?

All this seems to point to the fundamental truth that there is no silver bullet for us lowly office workers.  A standing desk is a tool that can encourage more variety in your day.  Indeed, the most recent studies seem to show that variety is actually the key.  A variety of working positions and movement throughout the day is what we really seek.

By avoiding any particular work setting or movement pattern, we can avoid developing muscle imbalances in the first place.  Or, if that’s not possible, it may be possible to counteract patterns developed at work, by strengthening the anti-patterns in the gym.  By moving around, even in small ways, we can counteract the negative impacts of sitting on cardiovascular health.

So in short, try to move around as much as you can.  And the best part… you don’t necessarily need a brand new $2000 standing desk to do so.  Go on a walk.  Take a break every now and then.  Shift around from your desk to the couch to the counter top.  Basically, do what our ancestors have done for millions of years.  That’s it!

Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk Review

As part of our ongoing series devoted to standup desks, today we are taking a look a a dedicated standup desk from none other than the appropriately named Stand Up Desk Store.  The Standup Desk Store is a provider of all sorts of stand up desks, including both desktop and dedicated models.  They make standup desks with a single platform, split-top with a separate keyboard tray, motorized, non-motorized and pretty much any other configuration you might be looking for.  So, if this particular model isn’t up your ally, you might want to browse some of the rest of their models to see if another one might fit your needs.

Today I am going to dive specifically into the the 60″ crank model, which is one of their more popular designs.  Although the name would imply that the main platform is 60″ inches wide, it is actually 59″.  With 60″ inches of usable space, however, it is unlikely that you will need the extra inch.  Interestingly, it also features a split-top, which is much more commonly found on desktop standing desk models.  In the case of a desktop standing desk, a split-top allows you to use the desk in both the retracted and extended positions without the need to move your mouse and keyboard on and off the tray.  With a dedicated standing desk, the advantages of a separate keyboard tray are not as clear.  In fact, in some cases, it may actually be a hinderance, as the available space for other items such as speakers becomes somewhat more limited.  It may have the advantage, however, of mitigating the need for a new monitor stand, since the desk itself elevates the monitor.  The platform sits about 3¾” inches above the keyboard tray, which may or may not be sufficient depending on your height.

The Stand Up Desk Store 60" Inch Model Provides a Wide Range of Adjusability

The Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Inch Model Provides a Wide Range of Adjustability

The frame itself is somewhat industrial in appearance and is made of powder coated steel.  It is very sturdy, however, and adjustable over a particularly wide range.  From a keyboard tray height of 29″ inches, all the way up to  40¾” inches,  it is clear that the Stand Up Desk Company designed this desk with taller folks in mind.  In fact, you’re probably more likely to have issues on the low end of the range if you happen to be on the shorter end of the spectrum.

In terms of portability, the 3″ inch casters make it relatively easy to move the desk around the office, provided that your office does not have particularly thick carpet.  In reality, since the desk alone weighs almost 90 lbs., you will probably want to move your desktop items and the desk separately.

The crank mechanism is straightforward, reliable and easy to use.   It is also relatively sturdy, but the desk comes with extra parts just in case.  It’s also worth noting that the Stand Up Desk Store also makes the same desk in an electric model.  In fact, the crank model even comes with the mounting points for the electric hardware.

Stand Up Desk Store 60" Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk

All this is to say that the Stand Up Desk Store has built a winner with the 60″ crank model, especially at such a reasonable price point.  There are, however, a couple areas that could be improved.  First, the platform itself is not real wood.  Though available in both black and dark walnut, it does not feel like wood either.  Second, I found the grey powder coating to leave something to be desired.  Though sturdy, the frame just feels a bit too industrial, which may or may not be appropriate for your work setting.

Pros of the Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk:

  • Wide Work Space – With 60″ inches of width, the desk easily accommodates two monitors and more.
  • Portable –3″ casters allow you to move the desk where you want it.
  • Reliable – The crank mechanism is easy to use and functional.
  • Split Platform Design  May mitigate the need for a monitor stand.  Also, a potential downside for some.
  • Price – Affordable entry level standing desk.

Cons of the Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk:

  • Platform – Not real wood.  Unclear that it will stand the desk of time
  • Industrial Steel Powder Coating  – May not blend in at the office.

Final Conclusion

The Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk is another fantastic product from the Stand Up Desk Store that will get you in the standing desk market at a reasonable price.  It leaves a bit to be desired in the looks department, but it is fully featured and will get the job done.

Check Price

Final Verdict: A reliable, simple and get-it-done product from a company you can trust.