A recent University of South Carolina study found that sitting at work all day is connected with heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes and other serious disorders. Sitting in a typical office chair can also cause long-term problems for the back and other joints. However, there are plenty of good alternatives available, including standing, more back-friendly sitting and working out while working.
Standing workstations are gaining in popularity. In fact, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is famous for standing at his desk. Standing all day may take some practice, but it is healthier than sitting, and burns more calories.
A variety of antique standing desks are available, as they were quite popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many contemporary desks have keyboard stands and other accessories, and can be adjusted to a variety of heights. DIY buffs can get creative by converting tall bar tables or other items into standing workstations. A final option is to make or buy desktop platforms that convert regular workstations into standing workstations.
If standing all day seems too difficult, you can at least relieve pressure on your back with a kneeling chair. Kneeling chairs tilt the thighs forward while forcing users to use their shins to support some of their weight. Kneeling chairs typically do not have backrests. The design is meant to improve spinal alignment and reduce lower-back strain, though some studies have shown little benefit. The first kneeling chair was the Balans chair, developed in 1979. Since then, a variety of models have been created.
Another ergonomic variation on the office chair is the saddle chair, which has no backrest and is shaped like a horse’s saddle. Users straddle the chair and sit higher than in most desk chairs, requiring an adjustable desk set to a height in between a standing workstation and a standard desk. Again, these chairs are designed to reduce lower back pressure. They also force users into better posture, as slouching forward is difficult on a saddle. Split saddle chairs also are available. They are meant to reduce pressure and heat around the genitals, so may be healthier.
Working in a La-Z-Boy chair may seem even less healthy, and certainly less active, than sitting in a traditional desk chair. However, some people with back pain are only comfortable in a recliner with their feet propped up. For these people, rolling desks can swivel out over the recliner. Recliner workers can also just work on a laptop computer, though experts advise using cushions between the hot laptop base and the lap.
Exercise ball chairs
I can’t help but think of my childhood hopping ball when I think of an ergonomic ball chair. However, these balls are not all fun and games. They are a serious alternative to the desk chair that promotes active sitting and better posture. Some exercise ball chairs just look like oversized playground balls, while others have backrests and are attached to wheels.
Finally, the Fitdesk allows you to get a serious workout all day at work. It is a combination stationary bicycle and workstation that allows users to surf the web, work or play video games while working out.
Get up and move
If you must sit in a desk chair a day, experts suggest getting up and moving once every hour. Do a few jumping jacks, stretch out your limbs and get your blood flowing. One expert recommends fidgeting while sitting, since it burns calories. A half-hour of walking does not offset eight hours of sitting behind a desk. The good news is, every minute of exercise counts, and any physical activity you can do during the work day will help your health.