Companies are exploring alternatives to the office chair amid studies suggesting that sitting may not be the healthiest activity

Walk into an ordinary office these days and — scattered among the sea of cubicles — you might see employees sitting on exercise balls, standing at waist-high desks or walking on treadmills.Web-Tools

Hold the laughter: Spending all day slumped in a chair could actually be killing you. James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who has been studying the effects of inactivity for nearly 15 years, has called sitting a “lethal activity.” The American Cancer Society has also linked sitting to a shortened life span.

With many companies taking measures to improve their employees’ well-being —and potentially boost productivity in the process — we explored some of the more interesting alternatives to the traditional office chair:

The Standup Desk

Standing workstations are now considered a status symbol in Silicon Valley, but more offices around the country are jumping on the no-chair movement.

There is an increased demand for the standup stations at Google and hundreds of Facebook employees have foregone their chairs, opting instead for high desks that allow them to spend much of the day standing. (Stools are available in case they get tired.)

The Treadmill Desks

Indianapolis-based TreadDesk has more than 100 big-name corporations, government entities and educational institutions as clients, including Microsoft, Pixar, the FBI, the National Parks Service and New York University.

Salt Lake City-based LifeSpan Fitness saw sales more than triple last year. The company’s most popular model, retailing for about $1,499, is Bluetooth-enabled to wirelessly sync data tracking your walking history to your laptop. The height of the desk can also be manually adjusted to accommodate several employees throughout the day. LifeSpan also makes similar desks for its exercise bikes.

The Exercise Ball

Health experts say claims about the vast benefits of the exercise ball have been slightly exaggerated. While one study found that sitting on a therapy ball increased energy throughout the workday, the same results proved true for testers who opted to stand instead of sit. Many health researchers agree that standing improves posture, burns more calories and expends more energy than sitting on an exercise ball.

The Workout Chair

Miracle exercise gadgets or overpriced gizmos? The GymyGym, selling for $799, is marketed as the “world’s first ergonomic exercise chair.” The Menlo Park, Calif.-based maker claims the chair relieves pressure on hips, the lower back and shoulders, while improving circulation and promoting the proper alignment of the spine. The chair includes retractable bands to work your arms, legs and back. It also reclines for abdominal crunches. You could just bring some freestanding weights with you to work instead, but the company stresses the chair is very comfortable and ergonomically correct. Plus, if all the gadgets are directly built-in, you may be more likely to use them.

Share your favorite office chair alternative by tweeting it to us — @RealBusiness.

By Giovanna Fabiano

(This article was first published in Real Business, a website from Xerox that provides ideas and information for decision makers in business and government.)