Saddle stools can be very comfortable for many people.
Dentists, nurses and others who work for long periods from a seated position often choose saddle stools.
Saddle sitting strengthens core muscles and supports more active sitting, helping to build good posture.
This can in turn help to avoid developing or aggravating musculoskeletal problems including back pain.
If you’re looking for a more comfortable seat which can enhance your posture, strengthen your core and help to reduce back pains, why not consider a saddle stool? Our article explores the comfort of saddle sitting and explains more about the advantages and use of saddle stools.
What is a saddle stool?
Saddle stools have seats shaped like horse-riding saddles. On a saddle stool you are seated in the same position as when riding a horse.
This is a healthy and ergonomic posture which retains the natural S shape of your spine, balancing weight properly between upper and lower body and lowering the risk of lower back strain or injury.
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As well as standard saddle stool shapes, saddle stools can also come in different sizes, split seat variants, or with back rests and/or arms.
Are saddle stools more comfortable than other types of chair?
Recognizing the postural and comfort benefits of saddle sitting, saddle stools have long been used by professionals who spend long periods of time working actively from a seated position.
You will often find saddle stools in the working environment of dentists, beauticians and nurses. There is moderate evidence that saddle sitting is associated with lower ergonomic risk than conventional seating in relevant populations.
Research around the benefits and comfort of saddle stools has often centered on dental and medical professionals.
There is evidence that saddle stools can reduce musculoskeletal discomfort associated with prolonged sitting, and may help to reduce sitting-injury risk compared to other ergonomic seats.
If you’re new to saddle stools, you may find the sensation unfamiliar and less comfortable than a standard chair in some ways at first.
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For example, saddle stools do require greater effort from core muscles to hold the body in an upright position and it can take time to adjust if your core is not already strong. You may feel greater pressure on the sitting bones and buttocks.
New users may want to gradually build up sitting time until they become accustomed to saddle-style sitting. Some manufacturers recommend an adjustment period of several weeks, beginning with just 1-2 hours of use each day.
The most comfortable saddle stools for regular sitting may be those which are are best suited to your individual physique, as well as being most ergonomically adjustable to suit your activities and preferences.
Basic saddle stools are available for under $100, with the most advanced ergonomic designs selling for over $1000. These prices are comparable with other seating types.
Are saddle stools comfortable for everyone?
Saddle stools are available in a number of shapes and sizes to suit people of varying heights and weights.
Some saddle stool models are also highly adjustable in other ways, to meet a range of different personal needs and preferences.
Most saddle stools can be adjusted to accommodate sitters of different heights, or for use by multiple users.
Some saddle stools are built more robustly to be suitable for higher weights or have seats that can be broadened for those who require a larger sitting area.
Men and women may both find saddle stools comfortable.
Some men may prefer a broader saddle seat or a split-seat style in order to avoid pressure on the perineal area which might be uncomfortable over longer periods.
Some saddle stools are narrower or wider than others and may also vary in flatness, or prominence of the front crest.
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Most of these features are a matter of personal preference.
Saddle stools may have an adjuster which allows the seat to be slightly tilted forward.
This makes it easier to move between sitting and standing, encouraging regular activity throughout the working day.
Backrest and arms
If the activation of core muscles feels too strong on a standard saddle stool, or your arms become uncomfortable without support, there are saddle stools available with built-in arms or a back panel.
Are saddle stools good for you?
Compared with standard seating, saddle stools have a number of possible benefits.
Saddle sitting tends to enhance posture, encouraging your back, pelvis and limbs into optimal positioning.
Saddle stools support the lumbar curve and can relieve pressure on the spine while sitting. This may help to reduce or eliminate sitting-related neck or back pain.
Legs and hips:
In a regular chair legs are held at a 90 degree rather than 45 degree angle, with pressure from the seat edge potentially restricting blood flow.
On a saddle stool, blood flow is not reduced through the legs.
The hips and thighs are held in a more stable and neutral posture, avoiding shortening or tightening of thigh muscles and hip flexors.
Core and abdominal muscles:
Saddle stools activate and work the core muscles around your abdomen and spine.
While this more active posture may be tiring for your body to begin with, a stronger core could have many posture and health benefits in the longer term.
Saddle stools make it easier to shift from sitting to standing. This is an advantage to those who need to switch between sitting and standing frequently during the working day.
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It also encourages sitters to stand up and move around regularly rather than remaining static for prolonged periods.
How should I sit on a saddle stool?
You sit astride a saddle stool in the same way that you would sit on a saddled horse. Saddle stools will normally place you higher up than standard chairs.
You may find that you need a higher desk level in order to maintain good posture when using your saddle stool in an office environment.
Make sure your buttocks are at the rear edge of the saddle and place your legs on either side of the seat rather than out in front.
Your knees should be at a 45 degree angle, supporting your pelvis in a neutral upright position.
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There is no option to sit sideways on a saddle stool. This would be both uncomfortable and unstable.
Similarly, saddle stools are not designed for someone to sit facing backwards and attempting to do this would likely result in physical discomfort, less stability and poor posture.
A final word…
Saddle stool design encourages active sitting and better enables regular movement. This is important because sitting still for long periods of time is bad for your health on many levels.
Whatever type of chair or stool you normally use, remember to stand up and walk around regularly.
Also bear in mind that there is no magically perfect seat that will provide complete comfort to every user during every activity.
Attention to your own posture and correct adjustment before sitting will always be important.
Even with a saddle stool, for optimal comfort you will need to make sure you have a stool suited to your overall size and adjusted to the correct height for your desk or workspace.
Are saddle stools comfortable? The best way to find out is to try one today!