I brought a kneeling chair into the studio this week and asked my fellow students (18 in total) to try it out and tell me what they thought about this different way of sitting, and how they thought this particular chair could be improved.
Most of them had never used a kneeling chair before and I had to show several of them how to actually sit on it. Most found this quite easy or figured it out for themselves, however as this was a new experience, some found it quite awkward.
Before sitting down a few were initially a little dubious about how comfortable or stable they would feel in this position. This highlights a problem with how the current chair is perceived and how this needs to be improved. However virtually everyone was pleasantly surprised and I had comments such as ‘Oh! That’s much better than I thought it would be’, ‘I like that!’ to ‘That’s well comfy!’
The overall consensus was it was actually very comfortable and that they liked the kneeling position.
Only 3 people (out of 18) gave any really negative responses.
One who is quite small (c. 5’2”) felt it wasn’t well sized for her body. Although she felt it was quite comfy, because she had to sit far forward to rest her knees on the pad she felt more pressure was going through her knees than she would like and if she sat back she didn’t feel safe. Conversely one respondent who is very tall (c 6’1”) felt it was awkward for him to sit on, although the position was comfortable when he did so. (It is interesting to note that a similarly sized individual had no problems, so perhaps this is in some degree a matter of the perception.) One other individual whilst commenting that they could feel that the position made them sit easily with correct posture and that they felt comfortable, they would not be able to stay in that position because of a knee problem.
Many people commented not only on the comfort but how they were surprised at how effortless it felt to sit with good posture (compared to a normal 90o seat) and that it felt very good in their lower back. Some however thought that they would feel more secure if there was a back they could lean against if they wished. Others said that it was strange not having a back but because they felt balanced in the kneeling position they didn’t feel unstable. This chair is actually sold with a detachable back, which I had purposefully removed to see if it not having any would elicit any comments.
The whole point of the chair is to make you sit autonomously, a back is therefore superfluous. I have only recently removed the back and the first couple of times I used it after doing so I found myself leaning back and being a little unbalanced when I realised the back wasn’t there anymore. Now, a couple of weeks later, I don’t even notice it isn’t there, because my body knows that it isn’t, so I don’t try to lean on it.
Despite having read negative comments on websites about the kneeling position being a strain on the knees and legs, virtually all of the people I asked felt (as I do myself) that there was actually very little pressure put on either their legs or knees in this position (see above for the only negative comments). A few people commented that they felt the knee pad was maybe a little too deep (300mm) as they could feel the edge a little on their lower shin. This is perhaps a slight fault in this particular model. I previously had a kneeling chair that had a narrower knee pad (240mm).
The group was split evenly about whether they liked to have their feet (or at least toes) touching the floor to add a sense of stability and balance or whether they preferred them to be hanging loose and be totally free. One person commented that they ‘liked the feeling of being suspended’. Most felt that the 5-star base was awkward and got in the way of their feet, particularly when the chair height was set to a minimum, although some felt they would naturally rest their feet on it.
The preferred height for virtually everyone was actually the height I set the chair to when I work at a standard height table. That is 540mm at the highest point (back) of the seat. Is this based on the perception of how high a chair ought to be, I wonder? The group was also split on whether they preferred a seat that was on castors and pivoted, or was fixed in one position. On the whole they felt the latter would be perceived as more stable.
The amount of padding on the seat and knee pad was considered to be just right to give comfort and support by most people. One respondent however felt that she would prefer an ‘Easy Chair’ to be softer whilst another said he ‘preferred the kneeling chair to his sofa’ as he thought it comfortable and gave better support!
Trying out different positions