Researchers are in the process of developing an “active chair,” a piece of furniture that could be a dream come true for those who want a healthier lifestyle, but don’t want to spend time exercising in the traditional sense.

The active chair looks much like a regular reclining chair with a footrest. It fits anywhere a recliner would fit and can be set up in front of your television. The difference is this chair connects to a virtual avatar that leads the person sitting in the chair in exercises. Data is collected while sitting and feedback is provided on posture, respiration, and heart rate, which is then used to customize an exercise and relaxation program.

Fitness Chair Utilizes a Variety of Technological Advances

This “fitness dream come true” is being developed by researchers at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) of Bielefeld University in conjunction with the family-owned companies Hella and Hettich as part of the KogniHome research project.

A representative from Hella explains, “Assistive technologies for cars and apartments share many similarities. The human user is at the center of both, and the technology must serve their human user’s needs and provide assistance in various activities. For the personal trainer, we are contributing our expertise in the technology for recording and measuring a driver’s activity.”


Customized Fitness Programs from a Chair

The chair acts as a personal trainer, but can also be used in the same manner as a regular chair. It guides users in performing exercises correctly and helps them workout without excess wear and tear on their joints. The program includes various fitness and yoga exercises, as well as a strength training program.

The chair features force sensors able to measure a person’s weight distribution in the chair. Muscles are “worked out” through playful movement activities. Exercises are led by a virtual avatar appearing on a display and encourages exercise outside of the chair, too. The program offers a complete body workout and can be paired with the intelligent cooking assistant KogniChef to help users reach their health and fitness goals.

Researchers used the SonicChair, a chair that produces an audio signal to alert users that a significant period of time has passed since they last changed positions, when developing the fitness chair. The personal training chair is synced to Smartphones or Smartwatches, and is able to adjust its settings for multiple users. It can also raise and lower to assist elderly or physically challenged users with sitting and standing and can be programmed to perform certain tasks at specific times, such as raising the recliner at 8 pm for television viewing.

What Does This Mean for Your Fitness and Health?

For average folks who don’t want to go to the gym for an assortment of reasons, you can get some help with these new tech-assisted approaches. For the more avid fitness-minded people, the chair itself may seem like it is counter intuitive for it’s ultimate goal of better fitness and health so the initial reaction will be to shrug it off like it is another late-night TV infomercial empty promise. In fact, this new tech is a lot more. As a rehabilitation mechanism alone, this seated approach will be a welcomed alternative to struggling through reps with only five pounds just to keep range of motion active (it’ll also save us from the onlookers wondering why we’re lifting so little). Beyond that, it also affords us the opportunity to approach fitness and health in a new way that can spark parts of our bodies and minds that the gym alone can’t always help.