The average American sits 13 hours a day, 86% of Americans sit all day at work, and 68% of Americans hate it, according to the book Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. Research on the dangers of prolonged sitting are continuing to pile up: Being sedentary for too many hours a day has been linked to poor mental health, higher risk of being disabled, higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, bad cholesterol, and excess belly fat.
What’s more, you can’t exercise away the harmful effects of all those hours of sitting. A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that even people who achieved the daily-recommended levels of physical activity were still at the same health risk as those who sat all day.
So, sitting at your desk all day is more or less killing you—great. Not only are you putting yourself at greater risk for disease, that horrible back pain that results from sitting on a traditional office chair isn’t pretty either. While you might not be able to spend half of your day walking around (though you should get up periodically throughout the day), there are other options for saving your back—and your life. Enter: ergonomic chairs. After testing several options, here are our picks for best alternative desk chairs. Try one on for size—you won’t regret it.
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Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
You've probably seen a few balance balls find their way into your office, and you should consider getting one yourself. They might look a little funny at first, but these chairs come with science-backed benefits. “Research supports that good posture helps to alleviate back and body pain,” says Cyd Crouse, COO of Gaiam. “With this in mind, we participated in a study that confirmed our belief that consistent use of the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair improves posture, engages core muscles, and increases energy.” Our favorite part about this particular chair is that it is incredibly affordable and therefore provides no excuse not to try it out. The base of the chair keeps the ball in place, and the lockable wheels make it so you’re not rolling around all day.
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The problem with conventional office seats is that your body must adapt to the chair and conform to its shape, which often messes with the alignment of your spine. The Swopper fixes this problem by promoting "active sitting." It was created over 12 years ago, making it way ahead of its time. How it works: Using 3-D technology, the chair allows unrestricted movement; you can move side to side, and forward and back smoothly. This helps improve your posture and exercise your muscles, which helps prevent back pain and joint problems. It may also help boost circulation and increase attentiveness. A few days of sitting on this chair were all we needed to feel the difference. It’s definitely one of the pricier options, but in our opinion, totally worth it.
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Along with alternative desk chairs, more people are opting for standing or adjustable-height desks. However, sometimes standing all day isn’t a realistic option. It might be nice to stand up for a few hours, or maybe for short periods of time, but having the option to sit is nice, too. The Muvman gives standers the option to “perch” or lean as they work. The stool is height-adjustable and can be used with most standing desks. Just like the Swopper, the Muvman allows for more motion while seated. It helps improve posture, and works to maintain the natural “S” curve of your back, which will help fight back pain and aches. It also strengthens and conditions the muscles of your back, core, and legs, and promotes greater overall circulation. Again, it's one of the pricier options, but when you factor in how much better you'll feel (and how many trips to the chiropractor you'll save) it's a good investment.
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The Wobble Stool naturally tilts and moves with your body as you're sitting. Plus, it’s a more affordable option if you're interested in trying out active sitting. The difference between this stool and the Swopper is the base. The base of the Wobble Stool is concave and the base of the Swopper is sturdy and still. It’s also height-adjustable. Comparatively, the Wobble Stool feels a bit more unstable than the Swopper and is less fluid in its motion. But for the price it really is a huge upgrade from a standard office chair. It takes a while to adapt to the sudden increase in movement while sitting, but once you get accustomed to the stool, it will become your best friend.