Over the years, research has highlighted how risky sitting for prolonged periods of time is. Over the years, research has highlighted how risky sitting for prolonged periods of time is. (iStock)

For employees in sedentary desk jobs, being healthy in the office can be challenging. Between long hours sitting down and time spent in front of a computer screen, risks to the office worker lurk quite openly.

To improve their health while at work, many employees look for alternatives to the traditional office setup. A favorite among many office workers is to replace their office chair with an exercise ball or to use a standing desk.

Despite their perceived health benefits, Travelers notes that both have the potential to cause discomfort or injuries. Before employees jump on the next health trend, they should consider what works for one individual may not work for another. Rather, keeping the focus on a simpler solution may warrant a more rewarding outcome in the long run.

Related: Reduce ergonomic injuries by changing your work environment

Exercise caution

Exercise balls have been a frequent fixture in fitness and physical therapy programs over the past decades. Sitting on an exercise ball without back support can result in constant back movement, which is believed to activate the back muscles and to help maintain muscle tone.

However, there is little research to support the use of exercise balls as chairs in an office setting for extended periods of time. Using an exercise ball as a chair provides no back support and leads the back muscles to contract, causing compression of discs in the back. According to a study conducted by Cornell University, while the use of an exercise ball may help with some core strengthening, it fails to provide back support and should not be used as a replacement for a good ergonomic office chair.

Related: Top 5 ergonomic trends redefining the workplace

To sit or not to sit

Over the years, research has highlighted how risky sitting for prolonged periods of time is. Many with office jobs took notice and turned to an alternative: standing desks. But standing desks can present their own health risks.

According to Travelers Risk Control ergonomics professional, there is an increased risk of injury if a worker spends a prolonged period of time working at an improperly designed workstation. Static postures, a hard floor or poor shoes can also contribute to potential discomfort and injury. Prolonged standing also becomes a risk, as it is linked to reduced circulation and discomfort in the feet, as well as in the lower back.

Unlike exercise balls or standing desks, proper seating provides a height-adjustable lumbar support, an adjustable seat pan, adjustable padded armrests with rounded edges and much more. Before employees consider a complex solution to a simple problem, they might want to look at their chair first: The answer may be right under their noses.

Related: Sit up straight: Millennials, safety and ergonomics