If your job requires you to sit for a majority of your day, you may be seriously damaging your health. “Physical inactivity has been linked with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, but it can also increase the risk of certain cancers,” according to a 2014 study on sedentary behavior published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
One of the most important things to keep in mind at an office job is to vary how long you sit. “Try not to sit longer than a half hour to 45 minutes in a stretch,” advises John Bartholomew, PhD, professor of exercise science, health behavior and health education at the University of Texas, Austin.
Luckily, there’s office gear that can help reduce the amount of time you sit and get you to do some physical activity at the same time. Here are five office exercise devices – each with its own advantages.
Treadmill Desks: Walk While You Work
With a treadmill desk, your work surface sits above a treadmill so you can move continuously while you type or do other tasks. Speed options typically vary from a very slow walk to a brisk walk. The LifeSpan Treadmill Desk ($1,499; pictured here) is one model that has integrated Bluetooth to wirelessly sync to your computer. That way, you can track the number of steps you’ve taken, distance traveled, walking time, and calories burned. It has manual height adjustment and built-in technology that pauses the belt if you step off or stand still for 20 seconds.
If you like your current desk and don’t want an integrated model, try a standalone treadmill like this LifeSpan Walking Treadmill Base ($999). It also has Bluetooth capabilities to record steps, distance, time, and calories.
Since it can be difficult to walk on a treadmill desk all day, keep a chair nearby, and alternate between walking, standing, and sitting to increase your activity level without overextending yourself.
Standing Desks: A Leg Up on Sitting All Day
A standing desk may be just what you need to cut down on your sitting time at the office. “Sitting is largely the absence of physical activity, so being able to stand while you're at work is one of the minimal ways to try to avoid that,” Bartholomew says.
One option is the portable StorkStand ($199). Unlike other standing desks, StorkStand attaches to the back of your office chair, so you can create a standing desk whenever you want. This is particularly important because it can be difficult to stand for the whole day. “Easing into using a standing desk creates some balance instead of going from completely sitting all day to standing all day,” Bartholomew says. “Most people get frustrated with that and go back to sitting relatively quickly.”
Under-the-Desk Ellipticals: Pedal While You Work
If you want to get more physical activity into your work day but don't have room for a treadmill desk, try Cubii ($299), a lightweight under-the-desk elliptical. Cubii is also portable and features easily adjustable resistance so you can change the intensity whenever you want.
“This under-the-desk elliptical provides more physical activity than just sitting or standing,” says Bartholomew. “The more activity you can get, the better.”
Some other under-the-desk pedal machines can cause you to hit your knees against the desk, but the Cubii has optimal angles to prevent this. It also comes with a mobile app for both iOS and Android, so you can track your distance and how many calories you’ve burned while at the office. It even syncs with existing fitness tracking devices like Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and Fitbug.
Bike Desks: Cycle and Sync
Riding a stationary bike while at work is beneficial because you’re working against resistance and gain a lot of benefits of lower-level physical activity, says Bartholomew.
There are a few models on the market. Something like the UpLift Recumbent Desk Bike ($275), essentially replaces your desk chair and allows you to move while you work. Others, like LifeSpan bike desks (up to $2,000), are Bluetooth-enabled so you can sync your activity to your computer or other device.
Another bike desk that is not yet on the market is Active Desk, created by Jim Martin, PhD, associate professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Utah. It is an integrated recumbent exercise bike and computer workstation. “Our patent-pending ergonomic solution allows the user to type with the same speed and accuracy as normal while pedaling and burning 250 calories per hour,” says Martin. “In a small pilot study at the University of Utah, participants have shown significant weight loss and improvements in blood lipids.”
Martin is working on getting the Active Desk to market in the next few months.
Active Seats and Exercise Ball 'Chairs': Sit Lively
Cutting back on prolonged inactive sitting may start with the thing you sit on: your office chair. Replace it with a chair that keeps you moving. Active seats are meant to move when you sit on them so that you work to stabilize yourself and, as a result, strengthen your core.
The Swopper ($699), an active stool, promises it will strengthen core muscles, improve posture, and stimulate your circulation. The adjustable seat has full flexibility of movement so you can easily move side to side and backwards and forwards, extending your reach without hunching your back. The Swopper incorporates spring technology, enabling you to vertically bounce. It comes in a variety of colors.
For a cheaper option, replace your seat with a Gaiam Balance Ball ($30). Make sure you don’t buy one that’s built into a chair. “If the ball is stable in a chair, you don’t have to work to stabilize yourself. There’s no benefit to that,” Bartholomew says.
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