Sitting at a computer workstation all day can place a lot of strain on your body, causing discomfort. Ergonomic kneeling chairs have been enduringly popular since the 1970s. Their posture enhancing properties can help with back and neck pain.
But what are the benefits of kneeling chairs? We’ll examine how they work, and whether they are a good option to help you through long hours sitting at a computer workstation.
About Kneeling Chairs – Posture Improving Ergonomic Stools
When a big chunk of your working day is spent typing on a computer, your body can begin to feel the strain. One solution to those aches and pains comes in the form of ergonomic kneeling chairs.
This type of office chair typically has no back, and instead has two cushioned parts. One is for the person to sit on as you would a normal chair. The other is to rest your knees as the bottom seat tilts in towards the chair. The60 or 70 degrees angle is thought to help better support weight by providing a more even distribution of body weight.
The design of kneeling chairs encourages the spine to be straight and therefore, a healthier posture will be established. While the bulk of the weight remains on the buttocks, the shins also bear some of the weight. The knees do not take the strain and the knee rest is there for practical reasons to provide support.
The kneeling chair design improves the position of the body when seated. This in turn will help with neck and shoulder aches, and back pain and also encourages a healthy posture. These chairs can be of great benefit to those who are seated all day.
History of the Kneeling Chair
Hans Christian Mengshoel created the modern day kneeling chair, which is called the Balans chair. He developed this in 1979 and since then, other Norwegian designers have produced similar styles of chairs.
By 1990, more than one million Balan original kneeling chairs had been sold. Research carried out found these chairs to tilt the pelvis forward, keeping the spine better aligned. The Balans chair did have critiques who believed the angle of the knee rest was not conducive to keeping a straight posture.
Since this time, these chairs have been designed and redesigned multiple times and are becoming increasingly popular.
Source: Wikipedia, Kneeling Chair.
Kneeling Chair Benefits
It is important that workers are comfortable in their offices and a properly designed chair can support this.
Employers who carry out workstation risk assessments may find that these chairs eliminate many of the health and safety risks. If you work at home and suffer from back or neck pain, it may be a chair you wish to consider for your home office.
There are several advantages that have been attributed to use of ergonomic kneeler chairs.
An improved posture goes a long way to improving other issues caused by sitting for long periods. A straight spine supports a healthier body shape and avoids curvation.
This is one of the main key benefits of the kneeling chair. They are far superior to the design of the standard office chair due to the angles of the cushioned seats. This type of chair forces the worker to sit up straight and allows for no slouching.
Standard office chairs encourage a curved shape to our backs due to the comfortable backrest. Kneeling chairs mean you sit up while not putting strain on your back.
Reduction in Lower Back Pain
Kneeling chairs are said to reduce lower back pain due to the body’s position when sitting in one. This is good news as back pain is a common ailment of office workers.
Due to a lack of backrest, the body is forced into an upright position which better supports the spine. The lower back is spared of the weight due to the angles of the knee rest. Instead, the shins share some of the weight which keeps the lower back with minimal pressure.
This, in turn, means lower back pain can be alleviated. Normal chairs allow you to sit at a 90 degrees angle. When you sit on a kneeling chair, you get a wider angle between the back and thighs which takes the pressure away from the lower back.
Increased Core Strength
These chairs have the benefit of building your core strength. This is due to a lack of back support which, in turn, gets other muscles working.
Over time, this can only work to increase your core strength. This new posture can help with better balance and being steadier on the feet.
As we get older, these are both factors we want to encourage. This can create better posture and minimise the risk of back injuries from sitting.
Boosted Productivity and Wellbeing
Our overall productivity can come down to many environmental factors, one of which is how comfortable we are. A standard office chair might not be cutting it when it comes to sitting in it for hours on end.
Productivity can be boosted when we are sitting on a chair that provides us with the correct posture. Our mind becomes entirely focused on the work at hand, not on our back or neck discomfort. It also means we can work for longer periods without the need to reposition our bodies.
When employees can maximise their productivity, this means their overall well being is better supported. Tasks are finished on time, there’s no need to work late and they don’t go home in pain. As well as being a physically rewarding experience, kneeling chairs can boost mental health too.
Due to the more upright position, kneeling chairs are believed to also assist digestive systems. This is because our organs are less squashed than when sitting in traditional office chairs.
During work hours, food is often a necessity rather than a pleasurable experience. Food is eaten hastily, knowing a pile of work is sitting waiting at the desk upon return.
This can cause issues such as indigestion which can be further spurred on by slouching. Eating while upright and then continuing to maintain good posture can help food be digested properly.
Features to Consider When Buying a Kneeling Chair
Whether kneeling chairs are being purchased for an office or for domestic use, computer health and safety regulations need to be considered. These safety standards are applied to workplace environments, but can benefit everyone who spends a lot of time at a computer workstation.
Display Screen Equipment safety standards need to be taken into account when any office equipment is purchased. Chairs should be of the correct height to type and use a mouse without any straining. They should be comfortable enough to sit in and move around as required to keep blood circulating.
Employers should consider having two types of chairs per employee or operate them on a rota system. Too long in one position can cause aches and pains to flare up. It is thought that alternating between chairs throughout the day can help our muscles remain flexible.
This means purchasing a standard office chair that is to DSE regulations and doing the same for a kneeling chair.
Kneeling chairs should be purchased after looking at their key features in great detail. Particular attention should be paid to the angle of the seat and knee rest. Also, it is important to note the distance between the seat and the knee pad.
How Should an Ergonomic Kneeling Chair Be Used?
Once you have purchased your ergonomic kneeling chair, you should pay close attention to the instructions for its use. Using it incorrectly may lead to problems.
To use one correctly you should bear in mind the following key points:
- When you first sit down, use only the seat part and keep your feet on the floor. This ensures you are sitting at the correct height before thinking about the rest of your body.
- Next, you can make sure you are happy with it in terms of distance from your workstation and adjust yourself accordingly.
- Finally, you can bring your legs up until your knees are on the knee pads. You may need to adjust a little until you are happy with the position.
It is important to let your body grow accustomed to these chairs. They feel a great deal different from office chairs. It might feel unnatural at first but your muscles will adapt accordingly until you can feel its benefits.
Drawbacks of Kneeling Chairs
To provide our readers with a balanced approach to kneeling chairs, it is important to discuss the cons as well. Like with everything in life, these chairs will not be for everyone.
There are some commonly reported problems of kneeling chair users and we touch on these below.
Pressure on Knees and Shins
Some people worry about the impact these chairs have on the knees and shins. Although the pressure is taken off the lower back, what happens to the weight elsewhere?
It makes logical sense that to alleviate the pressure from the back, this must go somewhere else instead. You get less movement with a kneeling chair which can mean the knees and shins stiffen up. Regular breaks need to be taken to keep muscles flexible and moving.
The knee pads can be uncomfortable depending on the design, you ideally want ones with thick cushioning.
Issues with Taller Frames
People who are tall or bigger in build may battle more with a kneeling chair. They can be impractical for some shapes and sizes and this should be considered before purchase.
Should you be purchasing one, and height is a concern then it is important to get a chair that can be adjusted.
These chairs are not one size fits all product and may not be suitable for everyone.
There is very limited adjustability when it comes to kneeling chairs. Therefore, if someone finds it very uncomfortable, there isn’t much you can do to change the chair’s dynamics.
Some kneeling chairs come with a backrest but these are mostly unused due to the positioning of the body. It also isn’t as easy to move out freely in one of these compared to a swivel chair on wheels.
Sometimes the practical aspects of being able to move around should be considered.
Kneeling chairs, although encouraging a better posture at the workstation, can restrict leg movements quite significantly.
Anyone who suffers from chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia or arthritis may struggle to adapt to these chairs.
People who suffer from stiffness benefit from being able to move around freely. Even something simple as walking the length of the office helps with stiff muscles. Getting on and off a kneeling chair will be more difficult for those suffering from stiffness.
Being able to wriggle the legs around also helps keep the blood circulating. This isn’t easy when the knees are resting on the seat.
Picture the scene. You need to move your chair on wheels to answer a call. Easy. Oops, you’ve dropped a pen, you need to bend to pick it up. Easy.
Now try these simple tasks from a kneeling chair – suddenly not so simple. In this respect, they can almost be completely impractical. If you find yourself too far from the workstation then you need to get off the chair and physically push it forward.
When something is out of reach you will most likely need to get up to retrieve the item. These issues can put employees off as they become disruptive to the workflow.
While the kneeling chair has a host of benefits, it is clear to see they do also have many drawbacks. For this reason, they shouldn’t be used as the only seating option in a workplace.
The benefits shouldn’t be ignored though. Having the incorrect posture throughout our working years can lead to many problems in later life.
Instead, you should consider kneeling chairs as a supportive measure to be adopted alongside standard chairs. This will encourage staff to move around and not be stuck in one position for too long. This can also help with localised aches and pains.
Alternative Office Chairs
You may read our article and decide to give kneeling chairs a miss, which is fine. There are many other types of office chairs out there to choose from.
We share some of the most popular types of office chairs below.
- Standing desks. There are many legitimate arguments to suggest standing desks are the way forward. This not only helps with back pain but also makes staff seem more approachable in the eyes of the customers.
- Ergonomic office chairs. This model forces the individual into an upright position which creates a healthy posture. These take the look of a normal office chair with a backrest, unlike the kneeling chair.
- High back office chairs. These are useful options for anyone taller than the average height. The higher back provides good support which decreases the likelihood of back pain.
- Gaming chairs. Built for comfort and endurance, gaming chairs can provide a pleasant sitting experience. However, they can also encourage slouching with functions such as recliners.
- Alba ergonomic sitting ball seat. These innovative office chairs offer the benefits of an exercise ball while you work. Encouraging good posture and movement, these balls are the definition of modern office design.
- Lumbar support. You can buy lumbar support cushions for your existing office chair. This straightens up your posture and helps to alleviate back problems.
Kneeling chairs can work depending on who you ask. Due to their design, they won’t suit everyone. It can’t be denied that they encourage better posture though.
Generally speaking, ergonomic kneeling chairs can be used by anyone. However, not everyone will find them comfortable or practical. It is about finding the right chair for your particular needs.