The Case for Leaning - Focal Upright

The Case for Leaning

October 24, 2017  |  Focal Team  |  Categories: Ergonomics, Lifestyle


Standing at my desk for work is definitely better than sitting (since sitting is the new smoking), but if lower back pain is the trade off, count me OUT.

Happily, I don’t have to agree to that lousy bargain – I just lean back against my upright leaning seat, reaping the rewards of standing and enjoying the comfort of sitting. Oh, and I scoff at the mere idea of back pain.

I know, leaning in a seat sounds weird. If you have a seat, why not sit?

My leaning seat offers me a brand new way to work. It’s a third posture, halfway between sitting and standing. I can more easily fidget, too, getting in all those postural changes ergonomists recommend. I get the best of both worlds – the active benefits of standing and the comfort of sitting. I rank it up there with my fancy memory foam mattress on my list of Things That Changed My Life.

When I lean, my knees stay well below my hips, encouraging an open hip angle of about 135 degrees. Researchers have determined that this puts the least amount of stress on my spine and its connecting muscles. It’s the same posture an astronaut assumes in zero gravity, with minimal forces acting on the muscles. The result? My back and abdominal muscles are in balance and I feel great.

Here’s why I don’t sit on my seat:

  1. Increased risk of back pain
  2. Increased risk of heart disease and cancer
  3. Poor circulation in my legs

(The Washington Post: The Health Hazards of Sitting)

And why I don’t stand all day:

  1. Increased risk of back pain
  2. Fatigue
  3. My feet hurt

(Applied Ergonomics September 2016)

Scientists have analyzed both prolonged sitting and standing. Neither come out smelling like roses. Active leaning gives me the best of both without the problems of either – that’s a bargain I will take!


An innovative leader in industrial design, serial entrepreneur Martin Keen is the founder of the socially-conscious KEEN® Footwear and, more recently, the award-winning Focal Upright Furniture. His love of sculptural form, structures found in nature and competitive sailing inspire his design aesthetic, helping him create many of the market trends and innovative products in use today.

Originally from the UK, Keen holds a degree in Industrial Design from the Ohio State University. In addition to racing sailboats, Keen also enjoys traveling, beekeeping, creating sculptural pottery and snowboarding. He lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island.