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Fighting Fat Through Furniture Design

Los Angeles Times | May 15, 2013

Want to lose weight? Redecorate.

Really? Really. Conventional furniture is part of the obesity problem, a growing number of scientists now say, but with the right changes it can be part of the solution.  

Rising to the challenge, designers are creating new styles of furniture, some meant to encourage perpetual motion and some meant to discourage perpetual eating.  

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"With all our products, we try to invite users to move more," says David Kahl, owner of Ergo Depot, which sells furniture online ( and in stores in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco. "When you keep your body moving, that's how you fight obesity."  

Many of these products involve desks and how you sit at them - or don't. You can walk at a treadmill desk, pedal at a desk cycle, or alternate between sitting and standing at an aptly termed sit-stand desk.  

And when you sit, you can do so on "active sitting" chairs, i.e., chairs meant to prevent you from simply sitting still. There are models to kneel on, perch on, and sit forward, sideways and backward on. "We have chairs where your muscles are engaged just to keep your balance," Kahl says. "They keep you moving without even being aware of it."  

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True, such options may not float everybody's boat. "Just because you have a treadmill in a work station doesn't mean someone will use it," says Shawn Green, vice president of design and product marketing for KI Furniture in Green Bay, Wis. ( "And some active sitting chairs are very complicated to use."  

Green thinks furniture should be designed and arranged in ways that make it easy to use (such as, with lounge spaces close to work stations). Movement is important, he says, but so is relaxing.  

And since stress is the cause of a lot of overeating, Green notes, furniture can fight fat by lowering stress. In other words, comfortable furniture can reduce the need for comfort food.

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