There are all sorts of ergonomic office chairs circulating the markets. Manufacturers seem to develop all these innovative solutions, from saddle stools to balance ball chairs overnight.
If you’re looking for a healthier and better office chair for your current work setup, you may have come across kneeling chairs.
Kneeling chairs have become very popular in modern offices and effectively relieve back and shoulder pains.
Still, many seem to wonder:
Are kneeling office chairs actually good for you?
Are they better than the traditional ergonomic office chairs?
Those questions are what we’ll be answering later in this article.
But first, let’s take a closer look at office chairs, who invented them, and what benefits they offer their users.
Table of Contents
- A little history on kneeling office chairs
- 5 benefits of kneeling office chairs
- The shortcomings of kneeling office chairs
- The verdict
- Final thoughts
A little history on kneeling office chairs
You may be surprised to learn that the concept of kneeling chairs has been around for hundreds of years.
The first sign ever recorded of its usage was in traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices where Buddhists monks and laypeople would use benches (called seiza benches) to maintain a comfortable kneeling position for long periods of meditation.
While seiza benches allowed the trunk and the thighs to be opened up by its forward tilting seat, it was very uncomfortable on the knees.
The modern kneeling chairs as we know them today were first introduced in Norway by maker Hans Christian Mengshoel in 1979.
His design was based on Danish surgeon Dr. A.C. Mandal’s research on the benefits of forward-tilting benches, like the seiza benches, on easing back pain.
Mandal found that people and young children in school would lean forward to help alleviate back pain.
Mengshoel also solved discomfort on the knees by adding comfortable knee pads to his kneeling chair design.
Countless improvements provided by brilliant ergonomics designers like Peter Gillings Jr., Peter Opsvik, Oddvin Rykken, and Svein Gusrud came after Mengshoel’s design was released.
Now, kneeling chairs are widely used not just for schools or places of worship but also in offices and homes across the globe.
5 benefits of kneeling office chairs
We’ve mentioned that kneeling office chairs offer an excellent way for people to ease back pain and discomfort. But there are several other benefits that a kneeling chair can give you.
1. Better alignment and posture
Because kneeling chairs were designed to tilt your pelvis forward, the spine can align itself correctly.
Research also suggests that — besides improving spinal alignment and posture — this forward-tilting position can also improve breathing and digestion in users.
When the pelvis is opened as it is when a person is using a kneeling chair, the internal organs of the abdomen won’t be as compressed and cramped as they would be with normal sitting chairs.
2. Stronger core and back muscles
Traditional office chairs offer the back complete support, so you don’t typically think about the other muscles on the body, such as the core, thighs, lower back, and shoulders.
Sooner or later, you find yourself relying wholly on your backrest. This is when your back starts hunching over, and your shoulders and chest start to feel discomfort and pain.
Kneeling chairs are often constructed without a backrest, which pushes you to activate the core and back muscles for support. This act is what helps strengthen the core and back muscles.
It also helps relieve spinal compression by distributing your weight equally across your shoulders, neck, and back.
3. The angles are adjustable to each user
Kneeling chairs are designed to have adjustable seat pan tilts. This helps you control the amount of pressure you put on your shins and knees.
Therefore you can have it higher or lower — whichever position you prefer or feel comfortable with.
Some traditional ergonomic office chairs have this feature, but they usually come at a higher price.
4. Lightweight and portable
Most kneeling chairs are made with lightweight materials, making them easier to store and transport. If you prefer to work on your home’s balcony or patio, you can quickly move your setup without putting much effort into it.
Some models even have wheels that help you easily glide to whichever point of your office or room you want to get to.
5. Better focus and productivity
Pain can be a huge distraction at work. Not only does it make it impossible to focus on your tasks, but it also destroys your productivity, putting you days or even weeks behind certain projects.
Kneeling chairs help keep your spinal column upright and improve blood circulation in the body, so nutrients and oxygen are more effectively transported to different parts of your body.
This new and better balance allows you to feel more energized and centered at work.
All these are just some of the proven benefits of using kneeling office chairs.
Despite the numerous advantages that kneeling chairs offer, it has several shortcomings that users need to note before making a switch.
The shortcomings of kneeling office chairs
No product ever created can claim that they were made without its host of disadvantages and shortcomings. If they did, then you’re probably getting scammed out of your hard-earned money.
Here are the most common disadvantages of kneeling office chairs:
- They can restrict leg movement when you’re seated
- Prolonged usage can limit blood circulation in the lower regions
- Shin pressure can become painful and uncomfortable over time
- Getting up and sitting down can be difficult and cumbersome
- It’s not the best solution for big and tall people
The cons of using a kneeling office chair are more inconveniences than they are harmful. If you take the right precautions, you can easily avoid these disadvantages and use kneeling chairs safely.
A good rule of thumb is to take regular breaks from sitting. Stand up and stretch to help restore proper circulation in the body. After a couple of minutes, you can return to work without worrying about getting hit with harmful side effects.
Another thing you can try is to alternate using a traditional ergonomic office chair with your kneeling chair. This gives you a good balance of activating your back and core muscles and letting your muscles relax entirely against a backrest.
So, are kneeling office chairs actually good for you?
The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no.
While countless researches and studies have proven the benefits of using kneeling office chairs in the workplace and home, we can’t deny that kneeling chairs for long periods has its downsides.
Therefore, our verdict falls a little towards the middle:
Using kneeling chairs CAN be good for you, but only to a certain extent. You must take regular breaks in between uses to avoid harmful side effects.
You can also alternate kneeling chairs with traditional office chairs, so you don’t get hurt.
1. What’s the proper way to use a kneeling chair?
There’s more that goes into properly using an office chair than just simply sitting on it. You have to position yourself correctly on the seat; otherwise, you could very well cause yourself some discomfort and maybe even injury.
When you mount a kneeling office chair, place both legs on either side of the chair. Sit yourself down, making sure your buttocks are carrying the bulk of your weight.
Don’t lean on your knees and shins before sitting your bottom down on the seat pan. This will cause you to topple over and get hurt.
When you’re properly seated, you can adjust the height and tilt of the chair to one that’s comfortable for you.
You must vary your sitting positions throughout the day to avoid any blood flow restrictions in your legs.
2. What’s the optimal incline angle for a kneeling office chair?
The optimal incline angle of a kneeling office chair seat pan is 20 to 30 degrees. This gives the pelvis enough space to open up and allows for just enough tension to keep you from leaning back and/or slouching forward.
3. What other alternatives are there for kneeling office chairs?
If kneeling chairs don’t work out for you, you can try several other alternatives, such as saddle office chairs.
Saddle office chairs can help relieve back, hip, neck, and arm pain. Because its declining position allows the upper legs to rotate the pelvis forward, restoring the back’s natural curve, correcting posture, and improving lower back pain.
Similar to kneeling office chairs, saddle chairs offer you very little space to slouch and hunch over. They’re also great at boosting leg circulation and reducing fatigue during work.
4. Are there other types of kneeling chairs?
There are several other types of kneeling chairs, and these are:
- Kneeling stools
- Executive kneeler
- Deluxe kneeling chairs
- Single padded kneeling chairs
- Double-padded kneeling chairs
- Saddle kneeling chairs
5. Are kneeling office chairs better than traditional ergonomic chairs?
Both chair options have advantages and disadvantages that can be fulfilled by the other. There’s no saying that kneeling chairs are better than traditional office chairs.
If you prefer to have the flexibility to choose between either chair, you can always buy both and alternate between them to get a more relaxed and comfortable experience.
While kneeling office chairs are great, innovative solutions to common user issues, they weren’t designed for everyone.
Make sure to consider your needs and preferences before you go out and buy yourself a kneeling office chair.
Furthermore, consider the disadvantages and advantages of each model you come across. Don’t just buy the first thing you see off the market.