Standing desks are out, and kneeling office chairs are in. That may leave you questioning, is this new chair craze worth the hype?
If you’ve been wondering about this ergonomic desk chair trend, we’re here to help.
Below, we’re answering your most common question: are kneeling office chairs good for you or not?
The Risks of Regular Office Chairs
Most experts agree that kneeling chairs are better for you than standard office chairs, but that’s not saying much. Regular seats with back support could be hurting your health in multiple ways.
Worse still, regular exercise doesn’t entirely counteract the effects of sitting all day.
Studies show those who exercise regularly and work desk jobs are still at greater risk for disease than those who work on their feet.
Many researchers hypothesize that the risks of sitting stem from limited muscle activity and low muscle metabolism. Our muscles don’t need to do much when they’re supported by the back of a standard office chair.
A team of researchers at USC suggests that sitting in a chair goes against our ancestral biology.
Our ancestors rested much of the day, they say, but they didn’t rest by sitting in chairs. They kneeled or squatted, and that makes all the difference.
While a regular office chair comes with a whole host of health risks, kneeling or squatting could have health benefits.
Squatting is impractical in most office settings, but kneeling is something we can get behind, especially if we have a kneeling office chair.
The Pros and Cons of Kneeling Office Chairs
Kneeling chairs are clearly better than regular office chairs, but that doesn’t mean kneeling chairs are good for you. It only means that traditional office chairs aren’t good for you.
Kneeling chairs, like everything we use, have pros and cons. In some ways, they’re phenomenal. Still, there are things to consider before buying one.
Using a kneeling chair at work could lead to a stronger core, less low back pain, and even better digestion.
Stronger Abs and Low Back
As we noted above, kneeling forces your muscles to fire, which reduces the risks of being sedentary. In a kneeling chair, you have more support than you would if your knees were on the ground.
Yet, it’s not as much support as you’d find in a standard office chair.
Your muscles have to make micromovements to stabilize you. So, over time, using a kneeling chair will strengthen your core and low back muscles.
Reduce Low Back Pain
Low back pain can come from a variety of sources. It could be due to an injury, but it could also be due to the stress of poor posture. Poor posture leads to pain and inflammation.
Unfortunately, most of us have poor posture when we sit at our desks.
Kneeling chairs force your pelvis to shift forward.
The forward shift creates a slight curve in your lower back, which relieves pressure on your spine. When you reduce the pressure, you’ll find pain relief as well.
It sounds strange, but improving your posture with a kneeling chair can help digestion too.
Slouching in a standard office chair puts pressure on abdominal muscles, which can cause all sorts of problems.
Poor posture after a meal can lead to heartburn and possibly slow digestion. A kneeling chair can correct the problem by taking pressure off the abdomen.
If you’ve ever had your feet swell after sitting for an extended period, or if you find your toes are always cold when sitting at your desk, you’ve experienced blood circulation issues.
In a regular chair, your hips and knees bend in such a way that blood struggles to circulate. A kneeling chair can solve the problem by changing the angle at which your knees and hips sit.
Improved circulation means you’ll maintain healthy oxygen flow throughout your body, helping you feel more alert and focused.
Good circulation also means more efficient transport of your immune system’s white blood cells.
White blood cells combat colds and other potential illnesses. When your white blood cells get to where you need them, you get sick less often.
Before you run out and buy a kneeling chair, there are a few things to consider.
Kneeling chairs aren’t for everyone and may not work well if you have trouble transitioning from standing to sitting down. They also can cause pain if their design places any pressure on your shins.
Difficulty Sitting and Standing
Getting into and out of a kneeling chair can be tricky. You need to have decent balance and stability.
If you struggle with sitting down or standing up from a regular chair or couch, a kneeling chair might not be suitable; it could be dangerous. It’s very easy to fall while trying to get out of or into a kneeling chair!
Many kneeling chairs are adjustable, but some aren’t.
You can change the chair’s slope and height in adjustable models, which can relieve pressure on your shins. If your kneeling chair doesn’t allow for that, shin pain can become a problem.
Restricted Leg Movement
Kneeling chairs put your spine in a natural position which can lead to better circulation. However, kneeling chairs also hinder how much you can move your lets.
Restricted leg movement can cause poor circulation in your lower legs and feet.
That means you could experience numbness or tingling in your feet and toes after sitting in a kneeling chair for too long.
Most experts recommend shifting between a kneeling chair and a regular office chair throughout the day.
Doing so eliminates most of the potential downsides to kneeling chairs as you’ll avoid any shin pressure or circulation issues.
How to Choose a Kneeling Chair
When you go to buy a kneeling chair, you may find yourself overwhelmed! There are a surprising number of designs to choose from.
Some have backrests; some don’t. Others have double knee padding.
And some have saddle-shaped seats. It’s incredible how many variations there are for something as simple as kneeling!
Below we cover what each feature does and who it’s best suited for, so when you go to buy your kneeling chair, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
Back Rest vs. No Back Rest
Some kneeling chairs come with a backrest as either a permanent feature or detachable piece. Because a kneeling chair shifts your hips forward, the need for a backrest is minimal.
However, it might be good for taking breaks from your kneeling position.
As noted above, experts suggest switching between a kneeling position and a seated position throughout the day to maximize the benefits of kneeling chairs.
Depending on the chair’s design, a backrest may allow you to switch to a standard seated position as needed throughout the day.
However, it’s certainly not necessary to have. You could just as easily switch from your kneeling chair to a regular chair whenever you need a break.
Kneeling chairs are available with single or double knee pads.
A double knee pad has a split so that each knee rests on its own pad. Single knee pads are solid so that both knees rest on one pad.
A double knee pad has some advantages over a single knee pad design. It forces you to leave space between your upper legs which creates a more optimal position.
However, many users prefer the single knee pad design. A single knee pad gives users the option to place their knees either close together or slightly apart, whatever provides the most comfort.
Seat Shape and Angle
Some kneeling chairs have saddle seats, meaning they arch the way a saddle would on a horse’s back. The saddle design may help relieve neck and upper back pain, but it doesn’t always work in an office setting.
Whether or not you go for a saddle seat, you’ll want to ensure the seat angle is correct.
Kneeling chairs should pitch you forward at 110 – 130 degrees, versus a standard office chair which keeps your hips at a 90-degree angle.
You also want the seat to be adjustable. That way, you can match it to your height.
There are many non-adjustable designs, some of which have fun features like the ability to rock back and forth.
While rocking is excellent for toning your core, a non-adjustable seat may be uncomfortable, depending on your height and build.
So, Are Kneeling Chairs Good For You?
In our opinion, yes, kneeling chairs are good for you. They help you achieve better posture and may counteract the detrimental effects sitting has on your health.
A kneeling chair can help you strengthen your back and core.
It can also reduce low back pain by relieving spinal pressure. Plus, a kneeling position is better for digestion and circulation in general.
However, too much of something good can quickly become something bad.
Sitting too long in a kneeling chair can cause pressure and pain in your shins. It can also restrict leg movement, which could limit circulation below the knee.
Experts suggest that you switch between a kneeling chair and a regular chair throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to stand up and take breaks!
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