Kneeling chair

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A typical kneeling chair, with the seat on the right and support for legs on the left.

A kneeling chair is a type of chair for sitting in a position with the thighs dropped to an angle of about 60 to 70 degrees from vertical (as opposed to 90 degrees when sitting in a normal chair), with some of the body's weight supported by the shins.

Kneeling chairs were invented in Norway in the 1970s, starting with Hans Christian Mengshoel's experiments on sitting devices with support under the shins. Furniture designers Peter Opsvik, Oddvin Rykken, and Svein Gusrud each developed chairs based on this principle. These designs took as their starting point the strain the designers thought was placed on the spine by conventional right-angled chairs.[citation needed]

The original design of the kneeling chair was supposed to significantly improve the ergonomics of working while sitting down. However, most of the expected benefits were not borne out. The main advantage of the kneeling chair is in the novelty of the position thus reducing stress on the customary areas subjected to stress during regular sitting. However, as it turns out this novelty only provides short term benefits and fatigue quickly sets in while sitting for extended periods of time. Some of the disadvantages that become immediately apparent are the increased bend of the knees and ankles with an awkward position of the feet either bent severely forward or extended completely backwards. This leads to fatigue in the legs. Additionally, the person's mobility both while in the chair is decreased as well as their in-out of chair mobility is decrease as getting into the "kneeling" position requires a minor bit of "contortion". Lastly, while seated the person's sense of balance is significantly adversely affected since as the feet are not resting with their soles on the ground both the ability to perceive balance and the ability to adjust balance through the muscles of the lower legs that operate through a foot firmly planted on the ground are impaired. Thus, the kneeling chair turned out to be more of a diversion rather than a true workplace breakthrough.

A Kneelsit kneeling chair.

Despite the name, the posture of a person in a kneeling chair is not the same as kneeling on the ground. It is sometimes assumed that the knees bear most of the body's weight when sitting in a kneeling chair, but this is incorrect – the shins bear some weight for stability, reducing the weight borne by the upper thighs and buttocks, but the body is still sitting, not kneeling. During actual kneeling, most of the weight rests on the knees with feet providing balance against tipping backwards.

The kneeling chair is known by several names:

  • YogaChair (a trademark)
  • Balans chair (a trademark)
  • Various versions of "balance chair", "knee chair" or Scandinavian/Swedish/Norwegian chair
  • Kneelsit chair (a trademark) - incorporates an adjustable backrest for lumbar support and mounts the seat and kneeler on swivel bearings for movement

Mass produced kneeling chairs are readily available; the best are adjustable with high-density padding instead of cheaper types of foam.

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