After one year of nearly 100% remote work, I've decided to arrange myself a new seat. It doesn't sound like something particularly exciting (almost everyone has some sort of an ergonomic chair, but we rarely talk about what we sit on, right?). However, I believe that my choice was so unorthodox that you may find it worth your attention.
In the shortest possible words, I've decided to buy a huge, bouncing spring. Literally. And here are my initial impressions.
Why 'initial'? I use it for six weeks now. It's easily long enough to get used to it, but it's far too short to assess its long-term effect on my back, neck, and general body posture. I won't risk any bold statements sooner than after six months of everyday use.
Folks, meet Swopper
OK, so the thing is called Aeris Swopper. Calling it a 'spring' is definitely a simplification, but not that much. Theoretically (according to the producer), it's an "office chair" - in the form of stool, w/o backrest or armrests. The sitting "cushion" is round (no distinguished front, back, or sides), convex, and hard as f... (it does not deform under the weight).
It's mounted on a massive, vertical spring that doesn't just bounce up and down but also rotates and tilts fluently all around (360 degrees). The spring is placed on solid, circular base w/o wheels or sliders (but there are such options available as well).
How do you 'sit' on such a thing? (yeah, I know that question sounds a bit ridiculous)
Well, dynamically :)
First of all - Swopper is stiff. So you need to apply some directed force to have it leaning, tilting, bouncing. When this force disappears, it retracts back to the initial position. If you adjust your moves to its 'rhythm' (action + retraction), you can sit on it rocking w/o much effort literally for hours. With legs on the floor or in the air. To the sides or in front of you. While bouncing front-back, sideways, or up-and-down.
Crazy? Crazy, indeed.
But ... what for?
Why did I decide to buy such a ... thing? Well, I was always spending a lot of time in front of a computer, but since the beginning of pandemic, I'm using my home ergonomic chair for ~95% of the computer-facing time every day (both work and leisure - probably about 12 hours on average ...). And recently I've started to perceive the first adverse effects (initially in my back, but recently also in my neck).
It's not that the previous chair was terrible. Not at all. But I couldn't help the feeling that the more comfortable and ergonomic the chair is, the more my body relies on this ergonomy. The muscles that were supposed to keep me in a proper posture are now "on permanent vacation", because I can now just "spread out" in the basin of the chair w/o any effort. The short-term comfort of an ergonomic chair is a true blessing, but long-term it simply cripples my body - at some point, I won't be able to keep the proper (healthy) position just by myself (w/o a considerable discomfort).
So I've decided to try something completely different. Something that may not appear comfortable at the first glance, BUT it will pretty much force me to self-correct my position (by using the appropriate muscles).
- Why not the standing desk then? I did consider that option, but I already have too much stuff on my desk (two displays, two keyboards, a laptop, some notes, etc.) for an adjustable standing desk.
- Why not the "active sitting" gym ball? That was my first thought (because it's cheap and widely available), but it takes too much real estate in the room, and frankly ... it doesn't appear very stable :) (my impression, not a proven fact)
So, in the end, following a friendly recommendation, I've decided to make a bet on Aeris Swopper. My spec:
- model: Swopper (standard version, not the Air one or the one with an attached backrest - which btw. looks hilarious)
- seat cover: black mesh
- spring and frame: black
- spring strut: standard height
- base: w/o castors, only glides (which I haven't even mounted)
Swoppers are produced in Germany (hence the hefty price tag ...), but I've found a local distributor (in Poland). It took about two weeks since making an order to receiving the well-packaged stool. The packaging itself was perfect. Everything was well-secured and in ideal condition. The assembling was trivial and took literally no more than 5 minutes, but the effect was visually very appealing.
When it comes to aesthetics, it's hard to find any flaws in Swopper, the "wow-effect" definitely is there. Top-notch craftsmanship, no cheapish plastics - everything looks very minimalistic, but super-solid and high-tech. The whole structure is surprisingly stable, keeping in mind the chair's size - I never had the feeling it's getting out of balance. It doesn't matter which directions you're leaning and how much effort you put in it - Swopper's frame doesn't shift but remains in place. Kudos for that.
The bouncing started feeling very natural after a minute or so. Swopping does require some effort, so it doesn't happen "by accident". It's also very immersive & natural while listening to music; at least it was (and is) for me. Initially, I've underestimated the fact that the whole seat rotates and the degrees of freedom are the same in all directions - but in no-time my body started to take advantage of that intuitively, w/o even thinking consciously about that. OTOH observers have confirmed I looked absolutely hilarious (not that I cared much ...).
However, I'm not going to BS you - getting used to Swopper was definitely NOT all roses. After 3-4 hours of using it continuously (on the very first day) my ... bum was so sore I had to take a half-an-hour break. One can compare that feeling to what happens when you go for a long (60+ km) road bicycle ride after a few months-long break. Needless to say, getting used to it takes not more than 2-3 days, so it's not a big deal.
Swopper after 1.5 months
What have I learned about Swopper after using it daily for 60 days?
- The thing I was mostly concerned about was ... the sound. Initially, Swopper was very silent (the spring was audible, but definitely within reasonable limits), but won't it start squeaking, creaking, and grinding loudly in time? TBH I did not record the sounds just after assembling, but I'm 99% sure the sound didn't change at all - you definitely hear it working mechanically, but the sound is subtle, non-disturbing, and discreet
- Another concern of mine was the initial stiffness (I've fallen in love with) - won't the spring surrender and deform under the constant application of weight (in my case: 80 kg)? Again, it's completely subjective, but IMHO it didn't change at all - Swopper is still pleasantly stiff and refractive - its "springiness" didn't get less pleasant and enjoyable. So far, so good.
- Monotony - not found :) Let me rephrase it again to make sure we're on the very same page - it's the kind of device you don't have to THINK about (when using). It's 100% intuitive, so e.g., your body effortlessly makes transitions between different positions to avoid stasis and boredom.
- Posture auto-correction: this one probably depends on how well and carefully you've prepared for Swopper; e.g., if your keyboard is NOT within reach or your screen(s) are not in level with your eye-sight, you may approach some difficulties. In my case - I have a small mechanical keyboard (Atreus) at the edge of my desk and all three of my screens properly adjusted - exactly where I need them, so I've never caught myself in an incorrect (e.g., hunched) posture.
- So far, I have no complaints regarding the mesh (material that covers the cushion). I didn't spill anything on it (so I didn't have to take it off and clear). The truth is that the ... butt moves a lot (far more than in the case of a more typical seat), so I was afraid that the material might quickly wear off (rub off), but I have no visible signs of such a thing so far.
Is this thing for me?
OK, these were the observations related to the seat itself, but (more importantly) did it really meet the expectations? Does it work well in everyday work? Would I buy it again if I were able to turn back time? What has changed (for real) since I've bought Swopper?
- When I was starting a day with a run (12-15 km), it was easy to "sink" in the ergonomic armchair afterward - I nearly felt being drained of energy, so I had to go for a "rescue" coffee or some alternative sugar boost; with Swopper it's not possible - I can't imagine dozing off on that thing :)
- When compared to other chairs, Swopper appears very limited when it comes to adjustment options. All you can do is tune its height (within limits) - practically speaking it is NOT a problem, but before buying, you need to carefully think through the scenario you'd like to use it in (standing/sitting desk, etc.). It is NOT universal.
- The bouncing is very satisfying, but ... it looks extremely ridiculous during on-line video calls ;) - and the fact that Swopper makes it very easy to start swopping uncontrollably (intuitively) doesn't help at all :D
- There's an entry threshold - the device itself is quite expensive and few initial days are simply painful (which makes you question your buying decision quite early ...)
- Personally, I've never fallen off (the Swopper), but my 9yo daughter did (once) - when she instinctively tried to rest her back :)
I'll put it very clearly here: If I could rewind time, I'd purchase Aeris Swopper again - the same model, the same cushion cover material. I still don't know whether it has fixed my problems (the ones I expect it to deal with) - it's too early to tell with true confidence - but there are no yellow, orange, red warning lights at this point. Just some cautious optimism :)
P.S. The cover photo and the YouTube videos are creations of Swopper's producer: aeris.de. All rights reserved.
P.S.S. This article is not sponsored, I did not take any advantage because of writing/publishing this review. I bought the chair myself - at full price available to all other customers. I did not contact/was contacted by any person from the manufacturer/distrubutor. This is a 100% independent review.