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 about creating user-friendly and physically safe workspaces that also push efficiency.
Of course, that was before activities 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. 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 by many exercise programs. Hell, according to some, just sitting down too much is killing us; it's been equated with smoking (even the cancer part). Or maybe it won't kill us. Anyway, 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 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.
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Gyroscopic Wrist and Forearm Exerciser
($18 to $55)
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 range all over, depending on the bells and whistles. at
Theraband FlexBar Resistance Bar
($13 to $20, depending on size)
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. 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 $13 to $20 each, depending on the size. at
Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball Kit
($15.99 to $19.99, depending on size)
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 Total Body Balance Ball Kit (in 55-, 65-, or 75-centimeter diameters) is more for working out. at
Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
($67.10 to $79, depending on color)
Place that same balance ball into an plastic chair frame and you've got a sitting device designed for chiropractic heaven that will easily transform back into the exerciser when needed—just lift out the ball. The classic version handles only the included 52cm (20.5-inch) diameter balance ball. at
Sivan Health and Fitness Balance Ball Fit Chair Base
Let's say you love the idea of a fitness ball chair, but don't want the back rest—just the wheels. You're in luck, as Sivan makes this base option. at
Drive Medical Deluxe Folding Exercise Peddler
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 this Drive Medical Deluxe Folding Peddler. at
DeskCycle Bike Pedal Exerciser
This is a much more advanced and expensive under-desk peddler, which claims the lowest pedal height among the competition (10 inches). at
MagneTrainer ER Mini Exercise Bike Arm and Leg Exerciser
The MagneTrainer has the same peddler paradigm, 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. at
FitDesk FDX3.0 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; the FitDesk FDX3.0 is on the low end and really only holds a tablet. at
LifeSpan C3-DT7 Bike Desk
LifeSpan makes a whole gamut of bike desk options. The C3-DT7 is at the high end; it's a combination stationary bike and height-adjustable standing desk that can grow with you. at
LifeSpan C3-DT3 Under Desk Bike
If you've already got a tall or standing desk, just get the LifeSpan Under Desk Bike, which is just the bike alone, and about half the price as the DT7 above. at
Still craving affordability? Tr7 the sitNcycle, as seen on TV (and above) for "active sitting." FYI, some major assembly is required when it arrives. You can get it with red, purple, green, or black highlight colors. No desk included, but it appears perfectly shaped to go with a standing desk. at
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. There's even a built-in rolling foot massager. at
FitDeskPro Universal Mounted Bike Desk
If you've already got a stationary bike at home and would prefer to use that, but still want to get work done when peddling, this mount will turn just about any exercise bike into a work space. It attaches to the tube handlebars; the built-in armrests include massage rollers to help relieve strain as you bike and type. at
Jarvis Standing Desk
($435 base price)
Fifteen years ago, I worked with a guy who I thought was a little nuts because he wanted a standing desk at work. Turns out he was well ahead of his time, since standing desks are all the rage now (sorry, Dennis). As long as you have two levels—one at elbow height for the keyboard and mouse, and other higher up to keep your monitor(s) in your line of sight—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. This Jarvis Bamboo Desk sells in a number of frame/desktop color combinations; and even comes in different sizes and shapes—like the top with the body contoured front.
Jarvis Frame Only
Do you have your own plank, door, or desktop laying around? Buy the Jarvis standing desk frame without the desktop. The frame adjusts from 22.5 to 49.25 inches high, and the adjuster switch has a digital readout option that includes four pre-set heights. Optionally, buy locking casters, wire management cable trays, or even a pencil tray to build into the desk. Frames come in black, silver, alloy, white, and red.
Ergo Desktop Kangaroo Junior
It costs almost as much as a standalone standing desk, but the Kangaroo Junior provides existing desktops and cubicles with a quick-adjust dual surface—one for the monitor (VESA-capable and weighing 12 pounds or less), the other for keyboard and mouse on a surface measuring 24 by 18 inches that can travel up to 14.5 inches higher than the desk. More expensive versions like the Pro and Elite handle bigger monitors or even dual and triple monitors.
Varidesk Pro Plus 36
If you like your existing desk, but occasionally wish you could stand up while using it, there are plenty of 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 smaller 30-inch wide Pro Plus 30 (which works best for elevating a laptop, naturally) to several models perfect for dual-monitor setups, like the Pro Plus 48. The Pro Plus 36 is the middle of the pack for price, size, and capability—it still can handle dual monitors, for example. They come in black or white and with the 36, also wood grain.
Stir Kinetic Desk M1
It 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, has integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and learns from your activity what works best. It adjusts from 25 to 50.5 inches tall, all automatically, controlled by a 5-inch touch screen embedded in the corner of the table-top. Maybe the most interesting thing each mode does is "breathe"—it will subtly move up and down about 1 inch as if breathing, in and out, up and down, promoting more movement out of you. at
ErgoDriven Topo Anti-Fatigue Mats
($79 – $119)
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. Amazon's Imprint Cumulus9 Comfort Mat selection in all different sizes and colors are pretty nice—they're also great in the kitchen. But for standing at a desk, you want what's now called a "calculated terrain standing mat." The Topo Standing Desk Mat (pictured) gets high marks for its built-in topography, perfect for moving your feet and legs into comfortable stances. It comes in multiple colors like blue, black, purple, and "Altostratus" gray. The $79 mini is smaller at 25.2 by 19.2 inches and better for the small footed. The regular is a wide and deep 29 by 26.25 inches. Both feature the center "ball" for a foot massage as needed.
Varidesk ActiveMat Groove
If you've got to have a standing desk, you need a mat to stand on. And if you've got to have a mat, why not one that let's your feet fidget all day? The mat helps your knees and back, the fidgeting—via the ball or balls you keep in the center groove—keeps you moving. at
ErgoHead Standing Desk Mat
($69.99 to $89.99 depending on size)
Another contour terrain-ed standing mat, this one features some stubbly massagers at the fore, perfect for the arches. It comes in two sizes, a large 26-by-28-inch version and smaller one about an inch shorter on each side. The highest parts of the terrain always hit about 2.6 inches. They claim it supports at least 10 different standing positions.
CubeFit TerraMat Standing Desk Mat
Another high-rated calculated terrain mat—with 11 standing positions!—this one got Kickstarter-ed to high acclaim in 2016. It is supposedly thicker than others, so you don't sink in and down to the floor as much. It comes with a 100 percent lifetime guarantee. It measures 30.5 by 27.5 inches, and is 3.5 inches high at the thickest area.
Wurf Board Santa Cruz
($199 to $269, depending on size)
Having a standing mat with a terrain seems smart, but surfers would argue that only a board should be under your toes. Bring new meaning to "surfing" the net with the Wurf Board. It's light, feels like standing on air, but bouncy—the board gets your body into micro-movements to keep you stimulated and burning calories. They call it "active standing." The Santa Cruz board comes in small, medium, and large. The bigger the Wurf Board, the more weight it can handle (300 pounds on the large, pictured). Clips on the side let you attach resistance tubes (sold separately) to turn it into an exercise tool. at
iMovR EcoLast Hybrid Sit Stand Mat
($269.99 and up)
Love the thought of a standing desk, but dread having to constantly pull out a standing mat for your soon-to-be-tired feet? EcoLast Hybrid may be the solution. It claims you can put a chair with casters on it, roll it away off the beveled edges, and go direct to standing, all without issue. It comes in various sizes of 5 by 3, 6 by 3, or 5 by 4 feet, with colors in black, brown, grey, and tan. at
LifeSpan TR5000-DT7 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 $799 (sans desk) up to $2,249. 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.) at
Muvman Basic Sit/Stand Stool
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 it in multiple colors like black, red, and green, even the base comes in black or gray. at
This stool may help you get over the sticker-shock brought on by the muvman above. VariChair is a stool perfectly suited for standing desks due to the airlift that push the seat from 23 inches to as high as 32.75 inches. But it also allegedly engages core muscles and your legs and back so you keep active even while sitting—it could be a good match for an under-desk pedal system. It'll hold up to a 220-pound person. at
AmazonBasics Dual Monitor arms
Dual monitors may not seem like a must for ergonomics and moving—but they sure never hurt. If you're going to be moving up and down, make sure the displays move with you—and independently as needed. AmazonBasics sells a perfect dual-monitor mounting arm, with an easy swivel option to put one or both displays in portrait as needed. Move them down like a drawing desk, up over your head, however you want to go.
ErgoTron LX Desk Mount LCD Arm
If you only need a single monitor, the LX Desk Mount should work for you, letting you extend an LCD over 2 feet from the arm, or flush with the post when not in use, plus you get 13 inches of extra height. A separately sold extension arm will even extend things an extra foot. The whole arm will support a 20-pound screen up to 32 inches (it's not going to work on a big TV). at
The Altwork Station
If you want to get out of the sitting position without actually standing up, consider the Altwork Station. One million dollars in the making, this $7,000, 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. Customize the Altwork by selecting the fabric, the desktop material, even the color of the frame. It'll only take 9 to 12 weeks for it to get to you. at
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