Desks have been transforming from furniture into anchors for decades. There has been an 83% uptick in sedentary jobs since the 1950s, according to the American Heart Association. The same 2018 study shows that 43% of all US jobs are highly inactive, with employees spending about 89% of their day sitting.
At the same time, remote work has seen a surge. The Pew Research Center estimates that 14% of employed adults – 22 million Americans – work from home all the time. When it comes to hybrid employees – who spend some time in the office and some working remotely – nearly 59% work from home at least three days each week. With these shifts in work dynamics, one has to wonder: Is the ‘work-from-home’ era compromising our health?
Recent findings from Stanford University’s suggest it might be. Remote workers sit for an alarming 9.2 hours a day, notably more than the 7.3 and 7.9 hours for on-site and hybrid workers, respectively. What’s the fallout? The World Health Organization warns that inactive lifestyles increase susceptibility to disease and disability, raising mortality risks by 20-30%. It seems the ‘sitting disease’ is today’s silent but deadly threat.
But all’s not lost, thanks to some helpful innovations, such as standing desks. However, a 2021 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests just standing isn’t enough to counteract the harmful effects of sitting. As we search for comprehensive solutions to our sedentary challenges, there’s much more to choose from than just standing desks, including equipment and accessories that can integrate cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and movements into your daily grind.
All-in-one exercise desks for cardiovascular health
The traditional image of a workspace – a chair, a desk, a computer – is rapidly evolving. The market has responded to our health concerns with innovative solutions that combine work and movement seamlessly. These all-in-one exercise desks aim to offer the best of both worlds: the efficiency of a workspace and the health benefits of regular activity. Here are some stellar options:
1. Standing Desks
While standing desks don’t offer exercise, they pave the way for a more active work environment by simply getting us on our feet. Standing intermittently throughout the day can reduce the risks associated with prolonged sitting. But, as research points out, merely standing isn’t enough. To truly benefit, it should be combined with active movement. (We’ll get to that later.) Stand tall while you work with top brands such as Varidesk, Uplift, and Fully.
2. Treadmill Desks
Taking the standing desk concept a step further, treadmill desks allow users to walk at their own pace while working. They help you to integrate mild cardio into your day, promoting better circulation, calorie burn, and mental alertness. Write while you wander with treadmill desks from LifeSpan, NordicTrack, and WalkTop.
3. Cycle Desks
These desks come equipped with a cycling mechanism. You can pedal at your desired pace while typing an email or attending a virtual meeting. They provide an excellent way to engage your lower body muscles and enhance cardiovascular health. Pedal through your emails with cycle desk innovators such as FlexiSpot, DeskCycle, and FitDesk, ensuring your legs are as active as your inbox.
Under-desk equipment for an active workday
For those balking at the price tag or size of all-in-one desks (hello, tight NYC apartments), under-the-desk exercise equipment provides a neat solution. Compatible with both traditional and standing desks, these gadgets can be easily integrated into your daily office routine. Let’s look at some of the options that are making waves:
1. Mini exercise bikes
These compact pedal machines fit under your desk, allowing you to cycle away while attending to tasks. With adjustable resistance, they can cater your workout to your preference. Brands to help you pedal your way into fitness include DeskCycle, Cubii, and Sunny Health & Fitness.
2. Elliptical trainers
A low-profile version of the gym favorite, these gadgets let you enjoy a gliding motion that’s easy on the joints. Most have a digital monitor to track strides, duration, and calories burned. Glide through work and workouts simultaneously with these sneaky under-desk trainers from brands such as Cubii, Stamina InMotion, and JFit.
3. Under-desk treadmills
These streamlined treadmills are designed to complement standing desks, enabling you to maintain a steady pace, whether leisurely or brisk, without ever stepping away from your desk tasks. Walk the talk of healthy working with treadmills that fit snugly beneath your standing space, such as brands like LifeSpan, WalkingPad, and Rebel Treadmill.
Active sitting for a stronger core
If a solid cardio session isn’t your cup of tea during working hours, maybe equipment designed to improve your balance appeals. With the rise in sedentary lifestyles, active sitting chairs have emerged as innovative options to enhance flexibility and posture. Check with a medical practitioner before using one of these, as they are not advised for everyone – particularly those with back pain. Here are a few of the most notable ones:
1. Balance ball chairs
These chairs, designed around a large inflatable ball, engage your core muscles and improve posture. The slight instability ensures you’re subtly shifting and adjusting, promoting continuous micro-movements. Great for adding core strength. For those eager to bounce into better posture, try brands such as Gaiam, Isokinetics, Safco Products, Aeromat, and Vivora Luno.
2. Wobble stool chairs
These innovative chairs introduce subtle instability to your seating, activating core muscles and encouraging constant micro-movements for better overall health. Some notable brands to consider include Swopper, Kore Stool, and Varier.
Desk-side fitness accessories for a healthier day
The innovation in office ergonomics hasn’t stopped at chairs. There’s another category to consider: desk-side fitness accessories. These are perfect for those who don’t have the luxury of space or the budget for high-end exercise equipment. These nifty tools can offer quick and effective workouts, and they’re easily storable, making them ideal for even the most cluttered of workstations. Here are some top picks to ensure you never miss a beat – or a rep:
1. Resistance bands
These stretchy bands offer a dynamic resistance challenge. Store them in your drawer and pull them out for arm extensions, leg presses, or bicep curls. With varying tension levels, they cater to beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike. Nearly every major sports brand, from titans like Nike and Adidas to specialized fitness brands such as Theraband, offers resistance bands as a staple in their fitness equipment lineup.
2. Dumbbell sets
A pair of light dumbbells can be a game-changer. Whether on a conference call or waiting for a file to download, it’s easy to fit in some front raises or shoulder presses. Opt for neoprene-coated ones; they’re desk-friendly and won’t scratch surfaces. In the weighty world of dumbbells, Bowflex, CAP Barbell, and Ironmaster are flexing their muscles.
3. Balance disc
This wobbly cushion can be placed on your chair. It not only promotes better posture but also challenges your core muscles as they work to stabilize your body throughout the day. For a balancing act that’s no circus trick, Gaiam, ProsourceFit, and Isokinetics are your star performers.
4. Leg weights
Velcro these weights around your ankles, and every step you take around the office or even just the subtle movements of your legs become a mini workout for your lower body. Start with very light weights for no more than 20 minutes. Then gradually build up the time so you can build muscle without causing injury. Strapping on some strength? Reebok, Valeo, and All Pro have got your ankles covered.
Where productivity meets pulse
In this age of the “sitting epidemic,” who says desks can’t double as our personal fitness hubs? From space-saving under-desk gadgets to nifty resistance tools you can stash in a drawer, the road to wellness no longer requires a detour from our workstations. So, whether you’re Zooming, brainstorming, or crunching numbers, remember: with the right gear, every moment can be a step (or pedal) closer to a healthier you. Here’s to redefining the “desk job”!
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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