Research has shown that regular changes in position increase attention, which directly benefits academic performance. Picture: Pexels

With children spending too much time sitting down watching television or playing with their electronic gadgets, it’s easy to develop a bad posture, but an innovation by Stellenbosch University researchers is set to change this as it encourages healthy habits from a young age.

Kuze comprises one piece of multifunctional furniture, resulting from years of research in the area of posture and ergonomics by the Division of Physiotherapy.

Led by Professor Quinette Louw, executive head of the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and SU researchers Dr Sjan-Mari Brown and Dominic Fisher - the idea of creating adjustable, multi-functional furniture was sparked when research confirmed that learners in the Western Cape routinely use anthropometrically mismatched classroom furniture that restricts optimal sitting posture.

“The Kuze is a simple, robust innovation that reduces the risk of developing a variety of severe ailments resulting from a sedentary lifestyle in our schools,” says Innovus, the university’s interaction and innovation company that offered support to the research team.

With children spending too much time sitting down watching television or playing with their electronic gadgets, it’s easy to develop a bad posture

Louw says the Kuze can be used as a height-adjustable chair, but also transforms into a standing desk when placed on an existing desk or table. This dual functionality allows the learner to easily move between sitting and standing while working.

“Research has shown that regular changes in position increase attention, which directly benefits academic performance,” Louw says. “When used as a standing desk, the Kuze also takes up significantly less classroom floor space.

"This facilitates additional movement by learners and group work, which traditional desks and chairs invariably restrict as a result of their bulk and weight.”

Standing rather than sitting also increases the metabolism. In this way, the Kuze helps to reduce the health risks associated with the consequences of being sedentary, such as being overweight and having diabetes. It also reduces back and neck pain.

In addition to its multi-functionality, the Kuze’s design is unique in the sense that it doesn’t have any mechanical parts. This makes it easy for young children to adjust the equipment. Once children have identified their ideal sitting and standing height levels with the help of an adult, they can quickly transition between sitting and standing in the classroom or at home.

“The Kuze has a sliding desk top that can be moved to the right or left, increasing the work surface. It also comes with a removable component that can easily be attached to create a book or document stand,” Louw adds.

Innovus facilitated the patent process and assisted Louw and her team with decisions about the commercialisation of the Kuze.

While it isn’t yet clear whether the Western Cape Education Department will supply the Kuze to learners in the region, it will soon be possible for parents to purchase the equipment. The Kuze “grows” with the child and can be used from the age of 3 up to 18.

It is therefore a worthwhile investment in the health and well-being of a child. Louw says. “We’re busy manufacturing the first 100 chairs. People who are interested are welcome to contact the team. The estimated cost will be R1 000.”