Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Are you sitting comfortably?

Nice feature in the Times today testing out the desk treadmill, although it wasn’t deemed a success. 

The desk treadmill was devised by obesity expert Professor Joe Levine who led a study which showed lean people burn about 350 extra calories a day through involuntary movements such as pacing around the desk or walking to the photocopier. He also found that fat people tend to be much less fidgety than thin people and spend more time just sitting still.

Now I can’t imagine anything worse than having to walk on a treadmill while conducting a phone interview and simultaneously taking notes. Even typing up notes while treadmilling would, I suspect, be beyond me. But a chair that wobbles as I work – now you’re talking.

Let me introduce the Back App. It’s a ‘saddle’ seated chair without a back rest and moves around to various degrees via a ball at the base. The movement varies from ‘slight’ through to ‘dynamic’.

The chair – especially in the red version – looks like a cross between something you’d see in a Star Trek film or a Shoreditch bar. I was given a less dramatic black one to try out. 

At first it felt rather odd to be more upright than usual, with my feet on the footplate. Yet within minutes I was totally used to sitting this way – and enjoying the wobble effect.

The Back App was invented by a Norwegian who’d had severe back problems: it basically improves sitting posture and strengthens the core muscles to help support the spine. But the wobble effect not only prevents stiffness from sitting too still, it gives you a low level core workout at the same time.

I loved it. I wobbled when talking, thinking, typing. And the wobble effect also reminded me to get off my butt from time to time – instead of spending hours just sitting in front of a screen.

I only tested it for a week but Mike Dilke, the UK distributor of the chair, produced some interesting stats from a Scandinavian study which showed that more than three out of four users reported a significant positive health benefit from sitting on Back App, with 26 per cent saying their back had become stronger.

Sadly, he couldn’t prove that wobbling around the BackApp would help fight the flab – but I’d pick this chair over a treadmill any day. I was sorry to have to give it back. 


  1. If you want one yourself there is a draw open to all to win a Back App. It is in the latest edition of Natural Health Magazine and you can enter via their website. There is a link to the competition on the Relaxback UK website - www.relaxbackuk.com

  2. I tried this at the Society for Back Pain Research meeting in Londay, November 2013, and was more than impressed. I have 20 years experience of treating people with major back problems, have heard and seen it all, and am rarely enthused with gadgets, chairs, or fads.
    Dr Keith Greenfield, Neurosurgery Research Group, Bristol.