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Once upon a time, the classic office chair reigned supreme as essentially the only option available to those of us in an office setting or for those who sit at a desk for most of their day. Ergonomics is essentially the study of work in relation to the human body. Ergonomically speaking, sitting in an office chair for hours at a time can contribute to back pain and soreness, as well as many other negative health effects.
In our ever-evolving world, many more ergonomic options are now available to us. This article will give you 15 different alternatives to office chairs with their benefits and their disadvantages. From standing desks, beanbags, treadmills and more, stay tuned for the different options and you are sure to find one to meet your needs.
1. Kneeling chair
Kneeling chairs contribute to alignment of the spine when we are sitting in them. This helps to prevent pressure on our lower back, helping to relieve the tension in our bodies. They are especially helpful for those of us that already tend to suffer from lower back pain.
- Promotes alignment of spine
- Reduces strain on lower back
- Difficulty in getting in and out of the chair
- Leg movement is restrained
2. Beanbag chair
When you think of beanbags, I bet you are transported back in time to a comfortable evening watching TV in your beanbag chair with a bag of popcorn in your hands. When you jump forward to adulthood and present day, you can still have that comfort at your desk with an ergonomic beanbag chair — perhaps without the popcorn, though. Beanbags can be a comfortable office chair and can also correct your posture, reduce stress on your body with their soft, enveloping features and lead to more comfort when working at a desk.
- Comfortable seated position
- Promotes relaxation at a workspace
- Difficult to get out of
- Covers need to be washed regularly
3. Balance board
It is no great secret that those who work at a desk all day tend to be less active during a workday. A balance board is a tool that can contribute to more physical activity while standing at your desk. It is an alternative to sitting all day and requires the user to expel energy to balance their body weight across the board while on it.
- Increases physical activity
- Reduces time spent sitting
- Potential for injury if the user loses balance
- Requires constant energy output
4. Saddle chair
It should come as no surprise that a saddle chair is modelled much like its namesake, a horse’s saddle. This alternative chair allows you to saddle the sides, although there is no back rest on the rear of the saddle. Your weight is distributed, and your back is forced into better posture. Better posture reduces tension and pain in your back, neck and other areas of the body.
- Better posture
- Relief of tension in various body parts
- No back support
- Potential to slip off the back of the chair
5. Under-desk bike
It has been a common belief that some desk workers suffer from being overweight or obese, partially because of the sedentary lifestyle that can come with sitting behind a desk with minimal physical movement for hours each day. WebMD recommends using an under-the-desk exercise bike to help combat the negative health effects of sitting behind a desk.
Under-the-desk bikes are very useful in increasing daily physical activity and offer an active sitting alternative. Many of them are compact and can be stored easily under the desk when not in use. This small amount of physical activity can potentially lead to better overall health and wellness for you. It is incredibly beneficial to add small amounts of physical activity into your workday whenever possible — even if it’s just a few desk exercises.
- Increased physical activity
- Can easily be stored in smaller office/desk areas
- Potential for injury, as with any exercise equipment
- Some desk heights may inhibit leg movement with bike
6. Stand-up desk converter
A very popular option for many companies right now is the use of stand-up desk converters. These are great because they can be adjusted throughout the day, depending on whether you want to sit in your office chair/other choice of seat or stand up. The benefits of sitting-to-standing workstations have been widely studied and include burning calories, strain relief on certain body parts — such as the back and hips — and an increase in muscle use from standing.
- Decrease in sedentary work position
- The choice to sit or stand throughout the day
- Size limitations of desks available
- Increased pressure on lower extremities when standing
7. Balance ball chair
A non-traditional office chair that sounds rather fun is the balance ball chair. One of the best aspects of using a balance ball as an office seat is that it consistently engages your core muscles as you use it. Engagement of the core strengthens your muscles, which can help to prevent or reduce existing back pain.
- Engagement and strengthening of muscles
- Reduction in existing body pain
- Dangers associated with balancing
- Constant muscle use
8. Swopper stool
Swopper stools essentially lead to constant movement while seated on one. They are excellent for body movement because they move in every direction, even up and down. Swopper stools do not have backs, which is clever, as it tends to force us into better posture when sitting on them.
- Increase in body movement
- Better posture
- Potential to fall off due to no back rest
- No ability to rest/sit still
9. Portable workstation
One of the best aspects of the portable workstation is that you can move it anywhere in your home or office. This includes your office area, living room, kitchen and even the bathroom if you just cannot let go of your work for even a few minutes! The ability to move your work around to wherever you need it can increase efficiency and productivity. It is extremely helpful to productivity and efficiency to add in small changes throughout your workday — even a simple change of scenery.
- Ability to work from anywhere in your home or office
- Increase in productivity and efficiency
- Workstation space restraints
- Potential for items to fall off the workstation when it is being moved around
10. Wobble stool
Wobble stools allow for us to turn 360 degrees in them as needed, allowing us a full range of motion. This reduces turning and twisting for both our necks and our backs and helps to reduce any strain or pressure we may be feeling from these motions.
- Full range of motion on stool
- Increase in muscle use from movement of the stool
- No back support
- Can potentially cause tiredness from moving all day
11. Treadmill desk
There are so many cool desks out there, including treadmill desks. Treadmill desks are exactly what they sound like, workstations with the base consisting of a treadmill. All the immense health benefits that come with regular exercise come with using this type of desk. They make it very easy for us to get in more exercise and physical activity while performing our job duties at the exact same time. There’s also the option for under-desk treadmills that can be stored away when you’ve signed out for the day.
- Increased exercise and physical activity
- Increased alertness due to movement
- Takes up a lot of physical space
- Office attire versus exercise attire must be considered
12. Standing desk
Standing desks have the same benefits as a stand-up desk converter as listed above. They allow for the release of pressure and strain on body parts and have several widely studied health benefits. They also tend to take up relatively small amounts of space, which is helpful for both home and office areas.
- Pressure relief for several body parts
- Increase in muscle use from standing
- No choice to sit down during the day
- Potential for joint damage from constant standing
13. Anti-fatigue floor mat
Anti-fatigue mats are excellent for those that prefer standing for long periods at a time. The material decreases the negative effects from standing still all day. The mats are designed in a way that creates small amounts of movement in the lower extremities throughout the day as they are used.
- Increases muscle movement throughout workday
- Increase in blood flow during workday
- Potential to trip on mats
- May not work for all flooring types such as carpet
14. Horizontal desk chair
Horizontal desk chairs have you leaning back in them, much like a recliner. They are adjustable for your body type and height as well. Your body is fully supported while you are in the chair and there are adaptable desks that can tilt with you. They are extremely comfortable to work in and allow for you to remain comfortable for the duration of your work period. This can potentially lead to some stress relief related to the workplace. Work stress can negatively affect us — both at work and at home — so it’s incredibly beneficial to find ways to combat stress however you can.
- Adjustable for various body types
- Comfort while working
- Difficult to get in and out of
- Potential to fall asleep if leaning back to work
15. Desk hammock
Desk hammocks are typically placed underneath desks to rest your feet in as you work. The ability to kick back leads to both an increase in comfort and physical health benefits. The greatest of these is the improvement of circulation throughout the body due to the raising of your feet and legs.
- Comfortable to use
- Increase in blood circulation
- The sizes of some desks may not accommodate space for a foot hammock
- Possibility of feet getting stuck and causing an injury
Overall, there are so many options available to use as alternatives to the traditional desk chair. The health benefits of each varies and can be extremely beneficial when we choose options tailored to our specific health needs. One of the worst effects of office chairs and desk work is the back pain that often affects those of us in office type settings.
Many of the options listed above can help to alleviate some of that pain and soreness associated with desk chairs, as well as prevent new pain from occurring. The best part is that we can individually choose the option that is best for us. We can choose to sit, stand, lean back or kick our feet up. The possibilities are endless. Find the one that is best for you and give it a try!
Join the conversation! Do you prefer to sit in a comfortable office chair? Or would a standing desk be more suitable for your lifestyle? Let us know in the comments!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 19 August 2019.