West Michigan office chair debuts at hearing

Chairs from a West Michigan firm were designed with research help from a physical therapy professor.
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Chairs from a West Michigan firm were designed with research help from a physical therapy professor.
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While attendees at a Senate subcommittee meeting were tuned in to the testimony given by university presidents, a few people concentrated on the furniture in the room.

A brand-new chair built by a West Michigan firm made its debut February 27 in Loosemore Auditorium at the Michigan Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, thanks in part to research by a Grand Valley faculty member.

Barb Hoogenboom, associate professor of physical therapy, met izzy+ CEO Chuck Saylor when he needed therapy for a back injury in 2007. She said he was interested in “excellent sitting” and wondered how an office chair could influence that.

Hoogenboom and several graduate assistants used the biomechanics lab and researched chair comfort and support, and enlisted opinions from many people in the College of Health Professions. “We have additional long-term research studies planned now that the development of the chair has progressed and it’s been released,” she said.

One of the chair’s differences is in back support. Instead of lumbar support, the Wabi chair focus is on the seat pan to build a better seating position.

Saylor said: “I really value the university’s support and partnership. This is a tremendous asset to area businesses.”

Hoogenboom offered advice for office workers who sit for long periods of time. “Limit time spent sitting, or break up work tasks to allow for movement,” she said. “When sitting, maintain excellent posture in a workplace designed for optimal posture and work.”