It’s no secret that physical inactivity is extremely unhealthy—in a 2012 press release, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that for non-smoking individuals, physical inactivity may be among the most major risk factors for cancer. For office workers, though, sitting idle at a desk all day can have the added danger of significantly inhibiting productivity. Just because you work a desk job, however, doesn’t mean that you also have to resign yourself to an unhealthy lifestyle. Dozens of options now exist for workers who want to stay in shape, improve their livelihood, and increase business productivity, all while remaining at their desks; here are some of the best.
Desks that allow you to walk and work simultaneously are the superstars of healthy workplaces. Most pre-assembled models are pretty pricey: One of the most well-known comes out to a grand total of $4,399, while a lower-end version will set you back by about $500. These desks allow you to walk while still completing all of your work. Walking at a comfortable speed of 3 mph burns about 300 calories per hour, all while giving your hip and leg muscles a great workout. You might even get more work done than you normally do, given the fact that exercise has been proven to boost both stamina and productivity. And, since walking itself has been found to strengthen bones, improve the cardiovascular system, oxygenate the brain, and lead to a longer lifespan, by the time you’re ready to call it a day you may just find yourself feeling better than ever.
Though immediately installing a walking desk in your office would certainly be beneficial, sometimes it’s just not feasible. Maybe you work in a very regimented and structured environment where such a desk would be frowned upon; maybe you’re not willing to fork over the necessary cash; or maybe you simply don’t want to be the only one strolling along on your treadmill while everyone else remains seated. Whatever your reasoning, know that there exists an alternative both discreet and affordable: desk cycles. These compact devices consist of a set of pedals mounted on a small, sturdy frame, and usually only cost about $50. They’re able to slide under your desk with no trouble at all, and allow you to improve circulation, burn calories, and get in your daily exercise, all in an easy, whisper-quiet fashion. Pedaling away on a desk cycle for just 25 minutes raises the average number of calories per hour (over an 8 hour work day) to 111, and your newly active hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles will certainly thank you.
Walking is indeed wonderful for you, but the simple act of standing is often overlooked. In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 office workers volunteered to alternate between sitting and standing while in the workplace. By the end of the study, 87% of the workers felt energized, 87% felt more comfortable, 71% felt more focused, and 62% felt happier in general. And, as if that weren’t convincing enough, standing burns about 144 calories per hour and also strengthens back and calf muscles in a safe, gentle manner. All those benefits could be yours, with no bells, whistles, or gadgets necessary—all you need is a taller-than-usual desk and a chair to go with it. You’ll then be able to switch between sitting and standing at your leisure, all while enjoying better health and a supercharged mood.
Balance Ball Chair
If you’d prefer to improve your fitness without even thinking about it, a balance ball chair could be for you. A standard model is refreshingly affordable at about $25, while a specially-designed balance ball chair is still reasonably priced at about $80. A 2008 study revealed that office workers who used balance ball chairs burned 4 more calories per hour than those using traditional chairs (totaling about 90 calories per hour), gave their back muscles a workout, and also preferred it to working in a standing position. Since balance balls are affordable, light, and just as compact as standard office chairs, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t reap the benefits of one.
If you’re looking to get fit at the office, you don’t need a fancy exercise routine, an elite personal trainer, or a slew of expensive equipment. All you need to do is walk, pedal, stand, or balance your way to a healthier, more productive you.