Sit Too Much? 14 Gadgets to Keep You Moving at Work
By Eric Griffith, PC Magazine, 3 May 2016.
By Eric Griffith, PC Magazine, 3 May 2016.
Ergonomics has many definitions - from "the study of people's efficiency in their working environment" to "fitting a job to a person." But in the tech world, it's mostly been about creating user-friendly and physically safe workspaces that also push efficiency. Of course, that was before things like Zumba and CrossFit became household terms. Being efficient at the job isn't enough - many people want to be hyper-physically fit to go along with it.
(There are also those who are happy to be shaped like a potato; all the better for rewatching Daredevil all weekend on Netflix. But this story isn't about me.)
The problem is, sitting at a computer for eight-plus hours a day, and maybe a few more at night, isn't exactly conducive to the "elite fitness" ideal promoted in a lot of exercise programs. Hell, according to some, just sitting down too much is killing us; it's been equated with smoking (even the cancer part!). There's no question a sedentary life is going to get more people headed toward heart disease. This infographic spells out some of the problems.
But you've got work to do! How can you do both? Check out the products below for options, small to large, cheap to oh-sweet-lord expensive. Adding any of them at all to your daily regime of sitting and staring at a screen will go a long way to helping you live a little longer. In fact, research shows just an hour of exercise a day can offset the ill effects of your bum in cushion the rest of the time. So get ready to get fit.
1. Gyroscopic Wrist and Forearm Exerciser
It might look like nothing more than a hard plastic ball with another weird ball inside it. But these exercisers, available on Amazon from makers like NSD Power and DFX Sports, get your arms toned while also helping fix repetitive stress injuries like tennis elbow or wrist tendonitis. Using a pull-string or a dock to get the interior ball spinning, you then keep it going with your arm and wrist. If you can't grasp the concept, just search "powerball gyroscope" on YouTube for plenty of examples. Different models have different abilities; some generate lights inside, while others have exterior LCD counters so you can visualize your reps. Prices go from US$20 to US$55, depending on the bells and whistles.
2. Theraband FlexBar
A foot-long bar of natural rubber might not sound like much of a workout tool. But bend the FlexBar in half a few times and you'll find the resistance undeniable. Of course it's got a great grip and bounces back into shape. It comes in yellow, red, green, or blue, each at a different diameter (from 1 3/8th up to 2 inches). The thicker the bar, the more pounds of force it takes to bend (from 6 up to 25 pounds). Prices go from US$13 to US$20 each, depending on the size.
3. Balance Ball "Chair"
Fitness product retailer Gaiam (pronounced "guy-um" - who knew?) isn't the only maker of giant rubber balls you sit upon, but it's toward the top of the list. Naturally, they're not just for sitting at a desk - the US$21.98 Total Body Balance Ball Kit (in 55-, 65-, or 75-centimeter diameters) is more for working out. But place that same ball into an US$80 chair frame and you've got a sitting device designed for chiropractic heaven that will easily transform back into the exerciser when needed. (If you don't like the chair back, but would like the wheels, Sivan makes a US$60 base.)
4. Bike Pedal Exerciser
Your legs are just sitting there, doing nothing all day long as your upper body handles all the hard chores at the computer. Put those legs to work, pedaling. Under-the-desk pedal sets can cost very little, like the Drive Medical Deluxe Folding Peddler for US$30, or get more advanced like the US$159 DeskCycle (pictured), which claims the lowest pedal height among the competition (10 inches); it's US$165 to get it fully assembled.
For the same price you can try the MagneTrainer, which is the same idea, but can be lifted up onto the desk or a table and used as an arm exerciser, just like that weird machine at the gym you're too embarrassed to use.
5. Bike Desk
Biking can make for a lot of movement, and thus a lot of calories burned. That probably doesn't work well with your dual-monitor-workstation setup, but a stationary bike with a desk built in could be just what you need for an hour a day with the laptop. A desk exercise bike runs the gamut in price, from the US$253 FitDesk v.2.0 on Amazon, on up to LifeSpan's US$1,299 C3-DT7 Bike Desk. If you've got a tall desk, just get the LifeSpan Under Desk Bike for US$799, or check out the sitNcycle, as seen on TV (and above)! It will cost you US$259 direct.
6. FitDesk Under Desk Elliptical Trainer
Hate the thought of pedaling, when you could instead put your legs through that weird, unnatural feeling you get when using an elliptical machine? You're in luck. FitDesk makes a Under Desk Elliptical Trainer to do just that under the desk. Cost: US$169. There's even a built-in rolling foot massager.
7. Jarvis Standing Desk
I used to work with a guy who I thought was a little nuts because he wanted a standing desk at work. This was 15 years ago. Turns out he was well ahead of his time (sorry if I called you crazy, Dennis). Standing desks are all the rage now. As long as you have two levels - one at elbow height for the keyboard/mouse, and other higher up to keep your monitor(s) in your eye line - you're set.
You don't want a desk that's permanently in standing position - that's not much better for you than sitting all day. The Wirecutter says the best available standing desk today is the US$599 Jarvis Bamboo Desk, which ErgoDepot sells in a number of frame/desktop color combinations; if you want, buy the US$525 frame without the desktop and use your own plank of wood for the desk's top. The frame adjusts from 22.5 to 49.25 inches high, and the adjuster switch has a US$20 digital readout option that includes 4 pre-set heights.
8. Varidesk Desktop Converter
If you like your existing desk, but occasionally wish you could stand up while using it, there are desktop converters. They basically sit on top of your current workspace, but can spring up whenever you prefer to stand. Varidesk makes a slew of them, ranging from the US$375 Pro Plus 30 (that works best with elevating a laptop, naturally) to several US$395 to US$495 models perfect for dual-monitor setups, like the Pro Plus 36 (pictured). Varidesk also provides free companion apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android to remind you how often to sit and stand, which anyone can use.
9. Anti-Fatigue Mat
If you're going to go with a standing desk, make sure you've got some decent footwear for long stretches of standing. Also invest in an anti-fatigue mat. ErgoDepot sells a number of them, like the specially designed US$119 Topo Standing Desk Mat (pictured), which has a built-in terrain perfect for moving your feet and legs into comfortable stances. It comes in multiple colors, but won't ship until June 2015. Can't wait? Check out Amazon's Imprint Cumulus9 Comfort Mat selection in all different sizes and colors. (They're also great in the kitchen.)
10. Treadmill Desk
The true ultimate for getting a full workout while working - the desk where you not only stand, but walk or run in place as you compute. DIY treadmill desks abound, but you can find some perfect options if you're willing spend big money. LifeSpan Fitness has an entire line of them, ranging in price from US$1,299 up to US$1,999. The more you spend, the more features, like changing desk heights electrically, deck thickness, drive motor, and belt size on the treadmill. (Or try out a human hamster wheel.)
11. The Altwork Station
If you want to get out of the sitting position without actually standing up, consider the Altwork Station. US$1 million in the making, this US$5,900, 210-pound contraption makes the computer move to your body, not the other way around. You can go from sitting in a recline to "standing" with a button push. Pre-order now and you can get the standard edition for only US$3,900, or just spend US$390 to reserve your place in line to buy one.
Do you spend a lot of time sitting at a high bench instead of a desk, or a standing desk for that matter? Faking it with a high stool won't always work, but the muvman claims to be productivity perfection for those constantly shifting from sitting to standing and back. It's got a movable joint in the base so you can tilt as needed; the height adjusts continuously between 20 to 33 inches, and the seat promises it won't hit any pressure points on your buttocks (or elsewhere). You can get one on Amazon for US$599.
13. Fluidstance Level
Looking for a little surfing action at your desk? The Level from Fluidstance is a successfully crowdfunded product now available in a number of options, from a US$289 maple version up to the original handmade version for US$489, plus stands and mats as options. The goal: bring motion to your work space, even when you're working, without all the impact of treadmills or bulk of bikes (check out the video for an example). They're currently Kickstarting another project, called UpGrade, to get the units with workstations into schools where kids are getting way too sedentary.
14. Stir Kinetic Desk M1
US$2,990 might seem like a lot for a standing desk, but this is a 150-pound smart desk - it has software to control what it does, contains integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and learns from your activity what works best. It adjusts from 25 to 50.5 inches, all automatically, controlled by a 5-inch touch screen embedded in the corner of the table-top. Maybe the most interesting thing it does is "breathe" - the Kinetic Desk M1 will subtly move up and down as if breathing, promoting more movement out of you.
Top image: NSD Spinner Gyroscopic Wrist and Forearm Exerciser. Credit: NSD Spinner.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited.]