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

Photo: Varier Furniture

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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I had a slipped disk once and thought to use one of these. After just 3 minutes, I was in more pain than I have ever been in before.

    Probably coincidental but since then I've kept well away from them.

      everyone's body is different, it might be just that particular stool or just that that style of sitting causes your body to sit in a way that pinches a nerve or something

      either way if you're thinking of getting one of these ( i am ) i'd try and find one to borrow for a couple of days use before i committed ( still looking ).

    I've read of several studies that have mentioned an increased risk of DVT and knee injuries arising from the use of kneeling stools.... Whether that's true for all or only some, the fact that they were just really uncomfortable during prolonged use, ultimately killed this fad...
    Exercise balls as chairs.... Now that's the in-thing (and it provides hours of entertainment for your colleagues everytime you fall off)

    I don't see them easy to get in and out of if you have to move about often.

    According to my other half who does exercise physiology (Two Uni Degree's dealing in ergonomics & physical health among other areas) kneeling chairs are terrible for your knees as they put a lot of pressure on them and she doesn't suggest anyone use them at all.

    Your better off standing or if not sitting.

    Last edited 07/10/14 4:02 pm

    Tried one of these. Impossible to perform a Riker Chair Maneuver. Would not recommend. 1/10.

    I had one of these for years.. I didn't mind them at all. Was on my computer desk.. I found that I was doing more slouching though... which probably wasn't so good. I found them pretty easy to get into and out of if I had to get up and walk around I didn't find my knees getting sore but it did force me to have a straight back when I wasn't slouching.

    I have been using a kneeling chair for 2.5 years since a dodgy fitness instructor pushed me beyond me limits and damaged 3 discs, and I credit it with saving my job! I truly don't believe that I could have continued in my job (Exec Assistant sitting 9+ hours a day) if I had a 'regular' chair. I admit that I can experience some (slight) soreness in my knees & shins, and skirts can be problematic,, but I just make sure I get up regularly & wear trousers more. I love my chair - they may not suit everyone but mine has certainly worked for me.

    Only problem is they are very hard on the area just below the knee, where your legs bear the weight of the body.

    I have two of them and they don't hurt my knees at all. One stays at the dining room table. With respect to your other half... I think the fit makes a difference. I feel no pressure on my knees. A tiny bit on my shins, but mostly on the sits bones where they belong. With respect to your other half, has she ever even tried one or is she just going bey hearsay.

    Kneeling chair is no doubt better than a sitting chair, however there are a couple of variables to take into consideration to make sure this is the case.

    1) The correct fit. Otherwise the pressure will be in the wrong places, knees, shins, etc. They should be like Chris's, mostly on your butt. The height adjustment can help with this.

    2) Sufficient padding. There is no chair that will not hurt you without enough padding (or worn padding), so do not blame the chair if you have been using it all day every day for years. The average chair comes with a 12 month warranty for a reason. Unless you spent thousands do not expect the chair to last 5 - 10 years or even more.

    And finally if you have any injuries obviously this would be an issue, but you should be able to trial the chair prior to purchasing, or such as places like Aldi, has a 60 day satisfaction guarantee. So you can try it at home.

    I have been using a SpinaliS chair for active sitting for a month now and I must say my core muscles are stronger than ever and the back pain is gone! Here is their website http://www.spinalis.ca

    I've been using kneeling chairs for a few years now. I love them. However, if you're not used to them, they do involve some adjustment period. When I first started using this chair, my shins started to hurt after a period of time. Partly because I wasn't used to the seating position (if your used to sitting on your shins, like monks, then this shouldn't be an issue. If you're not, then it will take time for you to get used to it. Plus, once you get used to it, that sitting position where 20% of your weight is supported by your shins, actually helps strengthen your shin bone, and the muscles around it. But kneeling chairs are much more ergonomically better for you than standard chairs. And much cheaper than they high end ergo chairs.

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