We fidget, toss and turn and fret in our traditional office chairs. “Isn’t there anything better?” you may have even asked yourself.
Kneeling chairs have gotten a lot of attention lately as an avalanche of studies confirm the hazards of sitting for too long, especially in the conventional position forced on to us by normal office chairs.
In this article we’ll look at the benefits of a kneeling chair for your posture and health, its pros and cons, and finally, how kneeling chairs compare to exercise ball chairs in helping you reduce back and neck pain, improve circulation, and work more productively.
Kneeling Chair Design
The first kneeling chair was designed by a Norwegian and made of wood. Today kneeling chairs are mostly made of a metal frame, though those looking for something that more closely resembles the original in style can find it in the Varier Balans. Some kneeling chairs have implemented the use of other components such as arm rests for the comfort of users.
Most kneeling chairs follow a similar design as the original design- that is, an angled seat to shift your body forward, and shin rests that take the pressure off your back and bottom when you sit. Such a design has many ergonomic benefits, and a few drawbacks.
Pros of Kneeling Chairs
The key benefit of kneeling chairs are:
- With kneeling chairs, the pelvis is tilted forward and the spine adopts the correct alignment. Opening the pelvis doesn’t just help correct spinal alignment and posture, there are other benefits such as improved breathing and digestion as well. Digestion is also improved because the internal organs of the abdomen have to contend with less compression when the pelvis is in this open position.
- With continued use of your kneeling chair, your core and back muscles gradually strengthen. This is because you are engaging your back and abdominal muscles in the absence of a back rest to support you.
- Kneeling chairs create a 110° trunk/thigh angle as compared to the traditional 90° trunk/thigh angle position with a traditional chair. This can greatly reduce the pressure in the disc of your spine when you sit.
- Your hips slide forward when seated in a kneeling chair, which is beneficial, because in doing so, your weight is more evenly distributed and your back, neck and shoulders are aligned. This eliminates stress on the lower back and reduces spinal compression.
- Many kneeling chairs come with adjustments that let you change the height of the seat as well as the angle of the slope. Pressure on the shins can therefore be controlled.
- Pain is a huge distraction at work – you find it difficult to focus. With a kneeling chair, with an upright spinal column, your blood circulates better, carrying nutrients and oxygen to the brain and the body so that you’re more energized while your core muscles are engaged.
- Kneeling chairs can be used in conjunction with a traditional office chair. Poor posture, circulation, and back pain come from sitting for prolonged periods of time in the same position- by alternating between a regular and kneeling chair throughout the day, you are practicing active sitting that can greatly reduce these ailments.
Cons of Kneeling Chairs
Despite the host of advantages for kneeling chairs, there are also some disadvantages:
- Your leg movements are restricted when seated in a kneeling chair
- Pressure on shins can cause pain over time
- Can restrict circulation to legs with prolonged use
- Getting up and sitting down can be difficult
The cons mainly mean kneeling chairs shouldn’t be your sole mean of sitting. Interchange between a regular chair and kneeling chair to get the maximum benefits.
Some kneeling chairs come with a back-rest. It is thought however, because the whole idea of a kneeling chair is to slant you forward, a back rest isn’t necessary. Others come with a rocker base, giving you some movement as you work, rocking you gently forward when you lean forward and rocking you back again.
You want to look for an optimal incline of at least 20 – 30° on a kneeling chair so that it becomes difficult to lean back and slouch. You should be able to adjust the height of the seat pan. Most chair have cushioned lumbar support that can be adjusted up and down and backwards and forwards to best fit your lower back shape.
Kneeling chairs in general are lightweight, making it possible to carry them between wherever you’re working. They’re mostly set on caster wheels, so you can manoeuver them around the office. They come with different levels of adjustability, so each user just adjusts the chair to their particular sitting position.
Kneeling Chairs versus Yoga Ball Chairs
Exercise balls have always been used as part of physical therapy. With exercise ball chairs, a base is added to let you sit on the ball like you would a chair. The idea is to sit on a unstable surface that encourages active sitting for better posture and micro movements of your muscles.
Ideal for Physical Therapy but Not for the Office
Exercise ball chairs won’t roll away because they fit in a chair frame with back support. The intent of the ball chair was to take a ball already used successfully for rehabilitation and to apply the same principle to the office. While a ball may well work well in a physical therapy situation, it can’t be compared to an ergonomic chair for a session of long-term sitting unfortunately.
With a yoga ball chair there are drawbacks. Sitting on a ball increases load on the lower back, and prolonged periods of sitting can lead to poor posture. Most ball chairs aren’t height adjustable and as such only work with non height adjustable desks. Also, a deflated ball can lead to balancing issues and poor upper body posture.
In a nutshell, exercise ball chairs do offer certain advantages for short-term sitting, but can’t offer the sturdiness and more long-term set-up compared to a kneeling chair. Both should not be used as your only chair however. This includes even a traditional office chair. The best approach is to practice active sitting and varied standing, where your posture and stance changes throughout the day, according to research by Conwell University.
Should I consider a Kneeling Chair then?
There is no doubt that a good kneeling chair offers some benefits for people looking to improve their posture or suffering with back pain. Its very design takes the pressure off your back and onto your shins while engaging your core muscles. Some people have found great respite from back pain as a result. However, it’s not a replacement for a regular office chair, nor standing periodically and moving about to avoid the pitfalls of sitting for too long altogether.