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The Kiwi physio making 'the world's healthiest desk' - Limber

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An innovative desk created by Kiwi business Limber is attracting global attention for its body-conscious design, having recently been dubbed the "world’s healthiest desk" by leading academic experts at the University of California, Berkeley and being selected for international research.

Limber’s Mini Desk was launched at the start of the 2021 Level 4 Lockdown, two weeks ahead of schedule, following the launch of its first desk in 2020, just before the country’s first Lockdown. In just over a week the company has sold more than 100 desks - five times what they had expected. Desks are being sold locally and internationally, heading to Singapore and Australia.

Locally designed, and made at Lower Hutt’s Scale studios, Limber’s ergonomically designed wooden desks encourage people to work in a wide range of positions, adjusting effortlessly through a range of motion - from sitting on the floor to standing, and everything in between.

Bart de Vries, physiotherapist and founder of Limber, says he created the desk to address back pain - the number one cause of disability globally. He says sitting or standing for too long isn’t good for overall health and it’s the movements in between that are vital.

"People are settling in to work from home for a longer period of time - COVID-19 is significantly changing how we work. We designed our Mini Desk with form and function in mind - it’s small enough to be used in small spaces without intruding, but still has all the ergonomic features built in - and it’s part of our mission to halve the level of disability from back pain globally by 2050. Ultimately, we wanted to create a way of living, and working, where health happens without conscious effort - so we started by creating the world's healthiest desk".

The desk’s efficacy has been supported by Professor Galen Cranz of the University of California, Berkeley, who is the founder of the Association For Body Conscious Design, certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, Doctor of Sociology and author of The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design.

"As a species, we’re designed for movement," Professor Cranz says.

"We need to change sedentary postures as often as we can and the Limber desk makes it easy to work in as many positions as is possible with one piece of furniture - it’s the only one I’ve seen that can do that, so I believe it’s the world’s healthiest desk".

Professor Cranz says people have forgotten how to sit on the floor, but that being able to comfortably do so, in a range of postures, is one of the biggest indicators of good physical health, particularly as we age.

"We want to turn body-conscious design into a social movement," she says.

The desks are made from sustainably forested birch wood and are in demand from major New Zealand corporate companies that are progressive about workplace health.

Xero’s Global Manager for Workspace Experience, Nathan McLean, says increased movement is good for the individual so it’s ultimately good for the business. The company was one of the first major clients to purchase Limber desks for their workers.

"In office-based environments we spend so much time sitting, and too much of one thing, one posture or position isn't good," he says.

"We design our office spaces to promote movement when away from the desk and Limber's mission to get people moving at the desk helps to encourage people to move even more during their day. We also liked Limber’s focus on sustainability".

Nathan McLean says COVID-19 lockdowns have highlighted how sedentary we can be when working from home, and by comparison, how active the day can be when in the office - a sentiment shared by Bart De Vries and Professor Cranz.

"The movements you make during ‘non-active exercise time’ or NEAT for short, are actually as important, if not more important to your health than time spent at the gym or during other dedicated exercise," Bart de Vries says.

"Increasing those movements by promoting a range of working positions and active resting postures throughout the day will help with reducing the huge statistics we see on back pain, and with overall health and wellbeing too".

About Limber: Limber, a New Zealand business started by a local physiotherapist, is on a mission to halve global disability from back pain by 2050 through creating spaces where health happens without conscious effort. We do this by finding the barriers to health and performance in daily life and we create products that use the latest science to prompt behaviours that increase health, reduce pain and prevent disease more easily than behaviours that don’t. We then figure out how to make those products in sustainable and regenerative ways. We have started by creating 'the world's healthiest desks', supporting people to move much more in the place where they spend the majority of their life's energy.

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