Once upon a time, Marc Turina was a physical therapist.
Then he realized he didn’t have to wait for people to get hurt in order to help them feel better. So he became an ergonomist.
Marc Turina is our kind of guy.
Ergonomists examine the fit of anything that’s manufactured to support the human body.
“Ergonomists examine the fit of anything that’s manufactured to support the human body—a couch in your living room, a workstation, or even the seat of the car.”
On that note, he met with us to talk about just how wrong we’ve been sitting and to speak on his experience behind the wheel of the 2016 Lincoln MKX, which was created with the help of ergonomists like him.
So, what do we need to know about a seat?
“I would describe revitalization as movement,” Turina starts.
The available multi-contour front seat marks a little bit of an improvement on the stagnant seat design in most cars. For a period of time, air cushions in the MKX backrest—where your back goes, and the seat pan—where your butt goes, inflate (gently in varying sequence) as you drive.
“What I really liked about (the seat) was that it keeps the hips and spine moving,” Marc says, “and any kind of movement you can incorporate into a task that has you locked into one position for an extended period of time is gonna benefit your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.”
As it turns out, good posture is about more than just looking taller. Potential injuries may be avoided by keeping body alignment in check. Optimally, you’ll want your hips and knees at 90-degree angles with your feet providing support on the floor. This helps keep the hips and spine aligned and is a piece of cake at the office, but we lose this postural sweet spot as soon as we stretch the leg to reach the foot pedal of a car. The one-size-fits-all design of the seat pan in most driver seats will hit the thigh at a different point, depending on the leg length of the driver, rarely providing optimal support for the extended exertion of accelerating and braking. To make matters worse, we’re typically leaning forward to grab the steering wheel as well.
“Those postures in and of themselves aren’t terrible for a brief period of time, but over the course of a couple hours if we are driving a car, we tend to slouch down. We slump forward and open up our hip angle, which really starts to put stress and strain on the muscles and ligaments of our joints.”
Remember those air cushions we were talking about before? They don’t just facilitate good circulation. Maintaining healthy body alignment becomes more effortless, too.
“What’s great about (the air cushions) is that they inflate and push your spine forward into the lordotic curve. This is actually the most advantageous position for your spine as it takes potential stress and strain off your spinal discs.”
The most advantageous position for your spine takes potential strain off your spinal discs.
This is also known as sitting up straight.
In addition, thigh extenders have been built into the seats, allowing each driver to extend or reduce the length of the seat pan to support their driving leg. It’s the closest thing to having a custom seat built for each individual driver.
Those who are passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle know that physical wellbeing often plays a big role in emotional health.
“There’s a very strong mind, body connection. And I know as a physical therapist for many years I would help people stretch because I knew that, if they were relaxed, their muscles would be longer, they’d get a better therapy session, and ultimately that would improve their mood and happiness.”
But there are more pragmatic benefits here as well.
“If you have a stiff neck or a stiff back or a stiff shoulder, it’s very distracting,” Turina says. “So when we’re comfortable and our musculoskeletal system is working optimally, it does help us to maintain focus and stay on track.“
There you have it: revitalization for mind and body, all with the help of ergonomics.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Because most of an ergonomist’s job pertains to the upfront design of a product, we don’t even have to think about maintaining healthy habits for our bodies—that’s already been done for us. Technology is assisting us in an increasing number of day-to-day tasks, so it’s important that this field that takes care of us via technology grows in kind.
“Ergonomics is the future. I think in recent history, especially the past 10, 20, 30 years there has been more focus placed on how a human being is going to have to interact with a computer workstation or an automobile seat.”
More focus is placed on how a human being is going to interact with a workstation or an automobile seat.
“And I think that’s a great thing.”
We think so, too, Marc.
Learn more about the 22-way seat and our more human approach to engineering in the 2016 Lincoln MKX here.