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The average sized person and other myths

There are things we learn and for some reason they stay with us as unshakeable truths. In my case from listening to my Uncle Harry recounting facts with such conviction that it defied any contradiction. Consequently I know loads of interesting stuff. Except of course now I realise, I don’t.

So why do myths become fact? When does the incorrect become the truth? If we always accept what people tell us without question my Uncle Harry would have been an Oxford professor.

“Yes well of course everyone knows that Mona Lisa was a man.” – Huh? Really? She looks like a woman to me.

“Goldfishes have a three second memory.” Hey? How do you know? – How do they remember how to swim then?

“It’s a fact that your hair and fingernails continue to grow after you die for over three months.”  – What? No! Who found that out? And even if it were true, why would you care? It’s not like you’re going to be visiting a barber again or start learning to play the guitar – a celestial harp maybe…

“We are all born equal and made in the same image.”  – Erm… no we’re not. You don’t look anything like me – and we are related!

Some people are bigger and some are smaller… then you have heavier and lighter, shorter and taller. Plus you get tall people who are light, or shorter people who are heavy and every other possible variation inbetween.


The tallest person ever, was Robert Wadlow who was 8ft 11.1 inches tall. Each one of his feet was 18.5 inches long – so he had a foot that was in fact over a foot and a half in length? That tells you all you need to know about average sizes and humans really doesn’t it.

Pauline Musters from the Netherlands, measured just 24 inches in height, only 6 inches more than one of Mr Wadlow’s plates of meat.

And we’re not just different heights, Ms Rosalie Bradford was weighed in 1987 at 85 stone or 544kg. But weight! Sorry, wait! At the other end of the tape measure we find Ms Ethel Granger, who had a waist of just 13 inches around.

I’ve always been fascinated by the differences in the human shape, size and appearance, imagining myself trying to explain to an extra terrestrial visitor that a jockey and a sumo wrestler really are the same species and are perfectly suited to their roles and paths in life.

So is there an average measurement somewhere between the jockey and the sumo? I have researched ‘average human measurements’ and I have to say I’m not surprised to find that the figures appear to be made up.

I’m too tall (which is interesting because it’s not what my old basketball coach used to say). My hands are too wide, fingers too short. My head is huge. My feet are so small as to not really be worth having, perched uselessly on the end of my odd-sized legs. You’ll be pleased, I’m sure, to learn that my ears are nigh on perfect but I’m severely let down by the freakish nature of my deformed thumbs. I’m not even going to mention my torso; although in its defence that’s my own fault, although I do feel the inventor of beer could perhaps shoulder some of the blame.

Ever the master of checking the facts again and again, I looked at other expert sources only to find that they told a different story to my original one. The few bits of me that were ‘normal sized’ are in fact not, and some of the other non-normal sized ones were in fact not as extreme as I’d been told after all.

Damn that basketball coach! It turns out I am too short after all. Thankfully we are all different and that we can rejoice in our varied and rich differences.

I think I need a sit down.

Human beings spend a lot of time sitting down. Some sources calculate that on average it could be as much as 15 hours a day. You can see where I’m going with this can’t you? Some other sources say it’s only 7.7 hours a day. It looks as if this ‘average figure’ thing is catching.

Either way it’s a long time. Calculating my own sitting time per day at 13 hours, I now know I’m at risk of all the health issues brought about by bad posture and poor workplace adjustment. Time to start looking after myself. Let’s start with an ergonomic chair, unfortunately our very diversity means that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work.

Most ergonomic seating is mass-manufactured on a component basis aimed at the 50th percentile of the adult population in the belief that it will fit the ‘average’ sized person. The 50th percentile, however, differs for males and females and also between Asia (where much standard chair componentry is made) and Europe or the UK. The reality is that even the best ‘off-the-shelf’ chair with a standard level of adjustability will only fit up to 40% of the population and even then will not address any specific postural concerns.

So, there is no such thing as an average sized person.

Which is why ergochair cut the chair to fit the person, so that the starting point or template is the right size for you before they begin to fine-tune it. Now there’s an interesting fact that is actually true.

So if you’re sitting uncomfortably, I shall amaze you with another of Uncle Harry’s ‘truths’. “When they were at the peak of their fame, many famous people faked their own deaths, and it’s a well known fact that Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly and my Uncle Harry are all living on an island somewhere, sitting round a campfire jamming together… and let’s not forget, Uncle Harry was pretty handy at playing the spoons…

That’s as true as I’m sitting here that is.