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- Active seating encourages you to move more than a traditional chair.
- There are many styles, including those that work with a traditional, standing, or adjustable desk.
- Of all the options we researched and tested, the Varier Move Stool is the best for most people.
Prolonged periods of sitting, including those during work hours, may raise the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Many experts agree that a mix of sitting and standing can balance the benefits and drawbacks of both. Active seating may also provide some additional movement you might not get from a standard office chair.
Active seating promotes movement, encourages good posture, and engages your core while sitting. Some models can work with a standing desk, so you can transition between sitting and standing throughout the day.
We combined testing and research to find active seating options for a variety of body types, work setups, and budgets.
Here are the best active seating options:
- Best active seating overall: Varier Move Stool
- Best active seating for a standing desk: Focal Locus Leaning Seat
- Best active seating on a budget: Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
- Best active seating for back pain: Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair
The best overall
The Varier Move Stool is easy to assemble and adjustable so it will work with both traditional and standing desks.
Pros: Cushioned for added comfort, allows you to sit up straight, rounded base and 360 degrees of rotation for mobility, lightweight and height adjustable, compatible with standing desks
Cons: On the expensive side, saddle-style seat makes it tricky to wear a skirt or dress
I tested the Varier Move and can confidently say I felt an immediate improvement in my posture. 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 stool. The lightly curved base also allowed me a good deal of mobility but was 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. 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.
It's height adjustable with a range of, allowing it to be compatible with both a traditional and 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, if you suffer from 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.
The best for a standing desk
If you're looking for an alternative to standing all day, the Locus Leaning seat from Focal will give you a place to rest.
Pros: Promotes good posture, high-quality design, works well with a standing desk
Cons: Expensive, takes up more space than many alternatives
As its name states, the Focal Locus is a leaning style of active seating, the middle ground between sitting and standing. It allows you to take a rest from standing all day but keeps 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, preventing you from putting any extra strain on those muscles. The only downside of the footboard is that it does take up a good amount of space. There are rollers to make it easy to move around, and it will also fold to make storage slightly easier.
The seat itself is a saddle-style, 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 also height adjustable.
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."
The Locus is one of the most expensive active seating options on the market, but in this case, you will get what you pay for. It's a sturdy, well-designed, and high-quality active seating option.
The best on a budget
The Gaiam Balance Ball Chair is an affordable option that will engage your core muscles and improve your posture.
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
While you could use a stability ball by itself as an alternative office chair, there is always the danger of losing your balance. The Gaiam Balance Ball sits in a chair frame with additional back support. It comes at a relatively affordable price, especially when compared to other active seating models on the market.
While it can be easier to slouch in this style of active seating, the backrest can help. A metal bar across the front keeps the ball securely in place, and the four casters on the bottom allow you to move the chair. 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.
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 make 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. Gaiam also gives you multiple colors to choose from, so you can add a pop of color to your space if you so desire.
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.
The best for back pain
If you're looking for active seating that doesn't involve perching, leaning, or wobbling, the Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair is ideal.
Pros: Encourages a posture that relieves back pain, durable design
Cons: Not compatible with a standing desk, may put too much pressure on knees for some
Most active seating options come in the form of a stool or exercise ball, but the Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair has you kneel at your desk rather than sit. The kneeling position prompts you to shift more than sitting in a traditional desk chair. It also takes the pressure off both the spine and hips. This is a great solution if you suffer from back pain, and you're looking for a way to change up your sitting routine throughout the day.
First designed in 1979, the Varier Variable Balans consists of a wooden frame and large cushions for comfortable support. The two knee rests are positioned at an optimal width to open up your hips and take pressure off your spine. The legs are slightly curved, allowing it to rock slightly. This allows you to lean forward and back with more freedom, extending your reach and increasing your mobility.
The Variable Balans works well with a traditional desk, but it won't be compatible with a standing desk.
Some users have complained that putting their weight on their knees gets uncomfortable throughout the day, but it's important to engage your core muscles while using this chair. That way, you won't be straining your knees and instead rely on your other muscles to hold you up.
How to choose the right active seating option for you
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.
- What style do you want? Based on your setup, you'll want something that works with your traditional, standing, or height-adjustable desk. You'll also want a seat that will work best for you, whether you want to engage your core or improve your posture.
- Is it height adjustable? This is important not only for allowing you to rest in the optimal position but also so it can be compatible with a sit-stand desk, if you have one.
- 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.
- 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.
- Is it easy to assemble? The easier it is to assemble, the more quickly you'll be able to start using your new office chair.
Check out our other office gear guides
The best standing desks
The best office chairs
The best desk lamps for your office
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