A while ago we were told that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, in terms of its impact on long-term health. There was a lot of publicity about standing and treadmill desks, and how they improve fitness and could help with weight loss.
Now it’s reported they’re not totally beneficial after all and could actually ‘increase pain and slow down mental ability‘. So are there any alternatives to a conventional office chair?
A couple of years ago I was given a Varier Variable Balans kneeling chair by a friend who’d been given one but didn’t want it. I’d wondered about having a kneeling chair for a while, but never invested in one because it was an unknown quantity. Now seems like a good time to share my experience of it and how I rate it on various criteria.
The health benefits of a kneeling chair are said to be that it keeps your spine straighter, strengthens core muscles, improves circulation and avoids tension in the back and shoulders. It’s designed to help your body rather than look good, so it might take you a while to learn to love its unconventional shape. At first it looked a bit odd in front of my desk when I’ve had a traditional office chair there for years, but now I’m used to it.
New kneeling chairs seem to be covered in unexciting plain fabric, but a previous owner of mine recovered it with a blue striped material, which I love. The frame was natural wood, but as part of my workspace revamp last year I painted it with off-white chalk paint. (The new ones have black frames).
Is a kneeling chair easy to use?
It feels a little awkward at first to step into the gap between the kneepads and then bring up your knees onto them, but soon becomes second nature. I naturally changed position from sitting with my legs between the kneepads and feet on the floor, and knees up on the kneepads, before reading that it’s beneficial to do this. I enjoy rocking backwards and forwards when I’m thinking about something!
It’s bit more tricky to get up when you’re wrapped in a blanket this cold weather, but again it’s just a matter of practice.
I’m in the habit of putting papers and files down on my chair when I’ve stood up to get papers out of the filing cabinet, and having a sloping seat rather than a flat surface means I have to be careful they don’t slip off.
When I brought it home I really didn’t know if this was going to be a brief trial before I sent it on its way again, or if I’d alternate it with my trusty office chair that’s accompanied me around the SouthWest to a number of home offices. As it’s turned out, I haven’t even thought about using the office chair since I got the kneeling chair.
I expected it to feel very different from sitting in an office chair, and when it didn’t I wondered whether I was sitting on it properly. Until I let A have a try and was immediately struck by how effortlessly straight his back was.
Then when I started Pilates classes last year the teacher told me I had good posture, and I’m sure that’s the effect of the kneeling chair rather than my own naturally good deportment!
Worth the investment?
My kneeling chair is at least third hand, but is very good quality, and a classic design made in Norway. The current equivalent of mine costs from £289, so it’s not an impulse purchase.
You can find them at a range of prices, which presumably reflect the quality of design and manufacture. I’d suggest reading about it and trying one out in a shop before committing. If you have back problems or are conscious of slumping in your chair it’s definitely worth considering a kneeling chair.