Ask LH: Are Kneeling Chairs A Good Idea?

Hi Lifehacker, What ever happened to kneeling stools? It seems like they were all the rage a few years ago and now you never hear about them. Also, are they a viable alternative to a standing desk? Thanks, Head Over Kneels

[credit provider=”Varier Furniture” url=””]

Dear HOK,

Kneeling stools and chairs are still kicking around — a cursory Google Shopping search reveals an abundance of available models. Like any office fad, you tend to hear less about these things once the hype has died down, but that doesn’t necessary mean they’ve fallen out of favour.

There are several health benefits that a kneeling stool provides over a regular office chair. These mainly centre around the concept of active sitting versus passive sitting. In a normal chair, your body tends to be either slumped and relaxed or tense and straight; neither of which are ideal postures. This can eventually lead to spinal problems and various other ailments linked to a sedentary lifestyle.

By contrast, a kneeling stool promotes active sitting through continual, controlled movement. Because the upper body is self-supported it has to balance itself which encourages the sitter to use their abdominal and back muscles. It’s like a mini core workout. Other cited benefits include better blood circulation via increased limb motion, improved concentration (i.e. — no slumping/vegeing out) and almost double the amount of calories burned per hour.

A lot of this could just be marketing pap to sell kneeling chairs, but independent research does support a few of these claims. For example, a scientific study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that lumbar curvature on an ergonomically designed kneeling chair is definitely superior to a standard computer chair:

This study suggests that ergonomically designed kneeling chairs set at +20 degrees inclination do maintain standing lumbar curvature to a greater extent than sitting on a standard computer chair with an overall mean difference of 7.633 degrees .

As to whether kneeling stools are a viable alternative to the standing desk would largely depend on the individual. On paper, a standing desk probably aids movement and posture more, but only if you use them correctly. There’s a temptation to lean on standing desks with your elbows supporting your weight (it’s something I’ve been personally guilty of at the tail-end of each day.) Plus, if you have a convertible model you might end up using it like a normal desk more than originally intended.

A kneeling stool, meanwhile, requires upper body balance at all times. There’s no way to “cheat” when you’re feeling tired. If you have questionable will power, we think a kneeling stool is going to be more beneficial in the long run.


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