The History of the Zero Gravity Chair
Zero gravity chairs have risen in popularity over recent years as they provide comfort and contribute to improved bodily health.
Their functionality comes from zero gravity positioning originally developed by NASA. This neutral body positioning is the key to the health benefits of zero gravity chairs. Here is a look into the history of the zero gravity chair and how its development gives us the products available today:
What is a Zero Gravity Chair?
First, what is a zero gravity chair? As opposed to a regular reclining chair, where the legs remain down while the torso leans back, a zero gravity chair elevated the legs to above the heart level. This distributes weight more evenly across the body, reducing stress on the body caused by the natural effects of gravity.
Origin of Neutral Body Positioning
To better understand how zero gravity chairs work, it is important to know how and why the technology was developed. Originally, space capsules used by NASA were designed to promote functionality over comfort. These work spaces were small and tight because most work was designed to be done while the astronauts were strapped into their seats.
Once designs began to evolve to incorporate comfort and safety in addition to functionality, NASA turned its eyes to images from Skylab, its first space station, of astronauts physically relaxed in while experiencing the microgravity conditions found in space.
While relaxed in microgravity, the body assumed a different posture than found on Earth under normal gravitational pull. Instead of an upright posture, the body automatically assumed a position created by the angles of joint and natural positions of limbs. This position is called neutral body position, or NBP, and was developed from the measurements of 12 astronauts aboard Skylab.
From these observations, NASA documented the NBP in its Man-Systems Integration Standards (MSIS) NASA-STD-3000 in the 1980s. In the MSIS, it is noted that the weightlessness of microgravity conditions caused changes in neutral body positioning, increases in height due to spinal decompression, and fluid shifts. Though the MSIS has been replaced since then by the NASA Space Flight Human Systems Standard, the NBP has been a guiding factor of NASA’s designs from the ISS to the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
The NBP has been most notably incorporated in the shuttle cockpit for positioning the astronauts as it reduces the amount of stress on their bodies during launch.
What is Zero Gravity Position?
Now that the origins of NBP are clear, let’s delve into answering what zero gravity positioning is here on Earth . Given the planetary pull, it is of course impossible to literally reduce gravity to zero. The zero gravity position is achieved as the body reclines with your legs above your heart level. This position reduces the effects of gravity along the body and initiates the health benefits of zero gravity chairs.
One of the benefits of a zero gravity chair is experiencing the same spinal decompression as astronauts do in microgravity. The neutral position reduces pressure on the spine, lengthening it against previous effects of gravity and working to alleviate back pain and sciatica symptoms. Another benefit of zero gravity positioning is increased blood circulation.
When the legs are elevated above the heart level in NBP, blood flows more easily from the heart to extremities and back. This allows oxygen and nutrients to reach all areas of the bodily more efficiently, reducing blood pressure and improving heart health. A tertiary benefit of zero gravity chair positioning is more complete relaxation and rest for the body.
In zero gravity positioning, the body can achieve better states of relaxation, contributing to improved sleep quality and overall bodily health.
Types of Zero Gravity Chair
As zero gravity chairs have become more and more popular, variations have arisen.
Regular indoor reclining zero gravity chairs provide neutral body positioning in a basic setup going from upright to NPB. There is another variation on the indoor chair called an orbital zero gravity chair. This chair differs in that it is set in the zero gravity position and does not recline from upright, thus limiting the features available to it.
Outdoor zero gravity chairs are frequently intended for use on a deck or patio. These outdoor models are typically smaller and some are built to be transportable for those wishing to take their chair elsewhere such as a beach or park.
For those seeking the ultimate experience, zero gravity massage chairs provide the benefit of the zero gravity position and enhance it with massage. Luxury chairs may even include heat therapy features, as well. These top-of-the-line models are pricier than more basic options but greatly enhance the health benefits of zero gravity chairs.
Zero Gravity Chairs Features of Today
The history of the zero gravity chair brings us to the recliners available today. As a source of comfort and beneficial addition to your daily fitness routine, luxury zero gravity chairs may offer high-end features such as heat therapy and massage.
These extra features extend the health benefits of zero gravity chairs by enhancing the effects of NBP. Massage and heat therapy functions serve to reduce soreness and aching in the muscles. This can be especially beneficial to the estimated 40% of all people who suffer from back pain and sciatica symptoms. Additionally, these luxury features feel spectacular for everyone!
Another development in the design of a true luxury zero gravity chair is the addition of the wake-up function. Smart wake-up features allow your body to achieve full relaxation without concern for indulging longer than you intended!