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The Insider Pick:
Standing desks and active seating have become very popular over the past few years, so there is no shortage of alternative seating for the office. Of all the options we researched and tested, the Varier Move Stool is the best. It checks all the boxes with its easy assembly, comfort, posture improvement, and versatility.
You’ve likely heard it time and time again: sitting is killing us. To make matters worse,studies show that exercise won’t undo the damage done from hours of sitting. So if you think you’ll combat the time you log in front of the computer screen with a sweaty cycling session or hot yoga class, think again. It does all sound a little dramatic. After all, everyone needs to sit throughout the day, right? While this is true, according to the American Heart Association, it’s the prolonged periods of being sedentary that are the most harmful — the type that typically take place at a desk job.
It’s easy to get swept up in a task and lose track of time, and it won’t be until a couple of hours have gone by that you realize you’ve been glued to your computer screen — and your derriere has been stuck to your office chair. What can be done? Standing desks are one option, and there are plenty to choose from. However, standing all day can have its risks as well. Luckily there’s another option: active seating.
This type of seating promotes movement, improves posture, and activates your core while sitting, and some models can work in tandem with a standing desk, so you can find the perfect combination of sitting and standing throughout the day.
It’s important to note that active seating is a lot like a new exercise. Since you’ll be utilizing your core more than you would in a normal desk chair, it does take some getting used to. You’ll want to build up to using your active seat more throughout the day gradually. Below are a few other factors you’ll want to consider to find the perfect style of active seating for you.
- Is it easy to assemble? Easy assembly — or no assembly at all — is definitely a plus. The easier it is to assemble, the more quickly you’ll be able to start using your new office chair.
- How much cushioning do you want? How much cushioning you need will depend on how often you want to use active seating — if you plan on switching back and forth between active seating and your normal office chair you may not need as much.
- Is it height adjustable? This is especially important if you plan on using a standing desk, or a transitional desk that can go from sitting to standing, so it can be compatible with both.
- How much space will it take up? If you don’t have much space to spare, or you travel often and want to take your seat with you, you may want to consider a collapsible or portable style of active seating that you can store when you’re not using, and that’s easy to pack.
Although the Varier Move Stool is our top pick, for various reasons laid out in the slides below, you should also consider the Mogo Seat, the Focal Locus Leaning Seat, the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair, and the Sleekform Ergonomic Kneeling Chair.
The best active seating overallVarier
Why you'll love it: The Varier Move Stool is easy to assemble, and adjustable so it will work with both traditional and Standing desks while promoting good posture and active core muscles.
I tested the Varier Move myself, and can confidently say I felt an immediate improvement in my posture. As a writer, I spend hours in front of the computer, and it can be all too easy to get lost in a project and realize that a couple of hours have gone by before I’ve moved.
While it did take some time to adjust to, and I still had to remind myself to sit up straighter at times, my back felt a lot better after using the Varier Move. The lightly curved base also allowed me a good deal of mobility, but is sturdy enough that I never felt like I was going to tip over on it.
The Varier Move is NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) certified by the Mayo clinic, which means it will allow you to burn more calories even while sitting. While this is by no means a total replacement for getting up and walking around, it’s far better than sitting hunched over in your traditional desk chair.
The top of the stool is reminiscent of a bike seat (although a much larger and more cushioned one) and you sit with your feet planted and your legs splayed slightly open, which in turn opens your hips and keeps your core and your leg muscles engaged. While this style of sitting is amazing for the posture, I wouldn’t advise wearing a shorter dress or skirt while using this. Just something to be aware of if you will be using this in an office setting.
One of the big winning points for me with the Varier Move was the minimal assembly required. All you do is attach the top of the stool to the base (it slides right on) and you’re ready to go. I would hesitate even calling this “assembly.” It definitely beat having to get out a manual and the tool box, and allowed me to start using it right way.
It has a weight limit of 250 pounds, and is height adjustable with a range of 22 to 32.25 inches allowing it to be compatible with both a traditional desk as well as a standing desk. The rounded bottom allows you to tilt and balance at all angles, and you can rotate a full 360 degrees.
The only true downside I could see with the Varier Move is the price. This is not something I would call budget friendly. However, with something like this, you’re investing in your health and a product that works.
The reviews are positive, withusers loving how the Varier Move helps them sit up straight “almost effortlessly.” Anotherreviewer found it to be a good remedy to their back pain. Reviewers also appreciate how light-weight and streamlined the design is — something I can also attest to. It was easy to move around, and I liked that it doesn’t take up much space at all.
If you suffer from chronic back pain or just want to find a way to be more active while tethered to your desk, I found the Varier Move Stool to be the winning option that truly works, and something I can see myself using regularly throughout my work day.
Buy the Varier Move Stool on Amazon for $499.99
The best active seating to save spaceFocal Upright
Why you'll love it: If you want an active seating option that won’t take up a lot of space and can be moved around, the Mogo Seat is the perfect solution.
It may look like a strange pogo stick, but don’t worry — you won’t go bouncing anywhere on the Mogo Seat. What you will be doing is keeping your hips in motion, and your legs and core engaged while improving your posture. Though it looks precarious with only one “leg” to stand on, the durable rubber foot won’t slip, and is suitable for carpet or hard flooring. The foot can also be switched over to a cleated plastic tip that’s perfect for turf if you plan on using it outside.
You’ll have to lean the Mogo Seat against something or collapse it when it’s not in use as it doesn’t stand on its own. However, it’s lightweight enough that it isn’t a hassle to move out of the way when you aren’t using it, and the collapsible feature is great if you travel for work, or you want to take it back and forth from home to office. It comes with a small bag to make it even more convenient to carry and store.
If you have a small office space or plan on switching between the Mogo and your traditional office chair, the minimalist design and its ability to collapse also make it ideal for saving space. The Mogo is height adjustable so it can be used with a traditional desk as well as a standing desk, and it can hold up to 250 pounds.
Some reviewers did complain that there isn’t enough cushioning to use it for a full 8-hour work day and said the seat itself is a little slippery. As with any active seating, especially a style like this where you perch more than you actually sit, you’ll want to build up to using this gradually since you’ll be using muscles you likely aren’t used to engaging so much throughout the day.
While the seat itself isn’t as cushioned as some, it is designed to cushion pressure points to reduce the pains commonly felt from sitting. Most reviewers found the Mogo to be a useful addition to their office — especiallythose with Standing desks looking for way to break up their day between sitting and standing.The Mogo gavethis reviewer a place to rest, and took the weight off their feet, while still having the ability to be mobile.
The Mogo Seat is definitely one to consider if you want a way to perch periodically throughout the day that won’t take up a lot of space. Added bonus? Its unique design will undoubtedly make for a fun conversation piece in the office.
Pros:Lightweight, collapsible and portable, encourages mobility and a better posture, height adjustable, can be used indoors or outdoors
Cons:Can’t stand up on its own, not much cushioning, some reviewers found the seat to be slippery
Buy the Mogo Seat on Amazon for $85.11 and up
The best active seating for a standing deskFocal Upright
Why you'll love it: If you have a standing desk, but you’re looking for a high-quality alternative to standing all day, the Locus Leaning Seat will give you a place to rest.
As its name states, the Locus is a leaning style of active seating — the middle ground between sitting and standing. It will allow you to take a rest from standing all day, but keep you more mobile than a traditional office chair.
The leaning angle promotes hip opening, which in turn puts less pressure on your spine. The Locus comes with a footboard, which puts your feet and ankles at a more comfortable angle as you lean into the seat, preventing you from putting any extra strain on these muscles. The only downside of the footboard is that it does take up a good amount of space — but if you have the space to spare it’s worth having for the extra support it provides.
The seat itself is a saddle style, encouraging you to open your hips, which pushes your pelvis forward so your spine aligns and removes pressure from the lumbar vertebrae. It’s also lightly padded and designed to help reduce pressure points that are normally pinched in a traditional office chair.
The Locus is adjustable, able to accommodate heights from 4’ 11” to 6’ 10” and will hold up to 300 pounds. While it does take up a fair amount of space, it has rollers underneath to make it easy to move around, and it will also fold to make storage slightly easier. The Locus will need to be put together, but expert assembly is also available if you’re the type that cringes at the words “assembly required.”
It has received positive reviews overall, andreviewers especially appreciate that it helps encourage movement and that their hips are no longer forced into a 90-degree angle allowing for a much better posture.Another reviewer commented that it stores away fairly easily, and loved how easy it is to adjust. They could find the perfect height and “not skip a beat while working.”
Buy the Focal Locus Leaning Seat on Amazon for as low as $701.90
The best affordable active seatingGaiam
Why you'll love it: If you have a traditional desk, but you want to ditch your uncomfortable office chair, the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair is an affordable option that will engage your core muscles and improve your posture.
Stability balls have long been considered a useful workout tool, so it’s no wonder that Gaiam saw the opportunity to give its traditional Stability ball an upgrade for the office. While you could use a Stability ball by itself as an alternative office chair, there is always the danger of losing your balance.
Gaiam eliminates the danger of taking an embarrassing roll across the office by housing their Stability ball in a chair frame with additional back support. All of this comes at a relatively affordable price — especially when compared to other active seating models on the market.
While your coworkers may raise an eyebrow at your alternative desk chair, it’s well worth the initial judgment.According to Cyd Crouse, COO of Gaiam, consistent use of the Gaiam Balance Ball improves posture, engages your core muscles, and increases energy.
While it can be easier to slouch in this style of active seating, Gaiam has included a backrest for additional support. A metal bar across the front keeps the ball securely in place, and the four casters on the bottom allow the chair to be moved easily. These can also be locked in place for extra stability when you need it.
Unfortunately, this chair won’t work with a standing desk, and its height adjustability relies upon the level of inflation. However, it is designed to fit most standard-height desks and will accommodate heights from 5’ to 5’ 11” tall. It also has a 300-pound weight capacity.
Despite some of its shortcomings, the affordability of the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair and the benefits it provides still make it a worthy addition to your office if you’re looking for a way to improve your posture. Gaiam also gives you multiple colors to choose from, so you can add a fun pop of color to your space if you so desire.
If you’re looking for a more cushioned seat, this is also a great option — while the ball encourages you to work your core muscles and improve your posture, its material and bounce makes for a very comfortable seat. Some basic assembly is required with this chair, but it does come with an air pump so you can inflate the exercise ball and start using your chair right away.
The Gaiam Balance Ball Chair has received very positive reviews, both for its comfort and its ability to improve a user’s posture.This reviewer gives credit to the chair for helping them sit up straighter even when they aren’t using it. They feel that their legs, back, and shoulders have been strengthened thanks to switching out their traditional office chair for the Gaiam.
Another reviewer claims that it’s the most comfortable office chair they’ve ever had. The Gaiam Balance Chair’s affordability makes it a great option to try out if you’re new to active seating, but you’re also ready to ditch your old office chair.
Pros:Improves your posture, works your core muscles, affordable, ball provides a cushioned seat
Cons:Won’t work with a standing desk, can be easier to slouch with this style of active seating
Buy the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair on Amazon for as low as $73.27
The best active seating for back painSleekform
Why you'll love it: If you’re looking for active seating that doesn’t involve perching, leaning or wobbling, the Sleekform Ergonomic Kneeling Chair is ideal.
Most active seating options come in the form of a stool or exercise ball, but the Sleekform takes a different route — having you kneel at your desk rather than sit. The kneeling position still burns more calories than sitting in a traditional desk chair, and it takes pressure off both the spine and hips. This is a great solution if you suffer from chronic back pain, and you’re looking for a way to change up your sitting routine throughout the day.
The Sleekform is comprised of a solid metal frame and large cushions for comfortable support. They claim to provide twice as much cushioning as their competitors, ensuring that the rest of your body will remain comfortable as you relieve the strain on your back. The steel frame is also extra durable — especially compared with the wooden frames that many other kneeling style active seating chairs are made from.
The Sleekform is adjustable — anywhere from 21 to 28 inches tall, which is more limited compared to some other forms of active seating. These heights will work well with a traditional desk, but won’t be compatible with a standing desk. The frame will hold up to 220 pounds and has four rollerblade style caster wheels to allow for easy movement, and they can also be locked to keep the chair more stable as you work.
According to the reviews, the pain relief you’ll be provided with definitely makes the Sleekform worth the price, which is relatively affordable when compared to other styles of active seating available. If you’re still skeptical, the Sleekform also comes with a 90-day money back guarantee.
Users who decided to add the Sleekform to their office rave about how well it works. One reviewer’s lower back pain disappeared since they started using it, and another reviewer’s husband likes that the angle of the chair takes the pressure off his spine and helps him sit up straight. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path of what you’d normally find in the active seating realm, this style may be the solution for you.
Pros:Affordable, cushioned for comfort, encourages a posture that relieves back pain, durable design
Cons:Not compatible with a standing desk, limited vertical adjustment
Buy the Sleekform Ergonomic Kneeling Chair on Amazon for $99.70 and up
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