Burn calories as you work without buying an expensive treadmill desk

Fitness gear: Here's some economical options to the treadmill desk

In the ongoing battle against flab, experts have been homing in on the active workstation in which you burn a surprising amount of calories and stay mentally fresh with constant low-level movement that stays below the sweat threshold. The trouble is that many of the solutions focus on the treadmill desk, which can be expensive. More economical options will turn your workstation into a bike, a home gym, a stand-up desk (merely standing burns calories) or even make sitting an adventure.

Super sitting

The Wobble Stool: Adjustable height stool with a slightly rounded rubber-tread base that requires you to actively balance yourself while maintaining a straight-back posture.

Likes: The perfect balance of wobbly-ness and comfort — easily the best execution of the instability-chair idea that I have tested. It's wobbly enough to keep you alert but stable enough so that it does not distract you. For a stool, it is surprisingly comfortable, with padded fabric on the top and three leg cut-outs that allow you to sit naturally. Spring-loaded, with release buttons hidden on the bottom of the seat, it adjusts from 22 to 33 inches high. Assembly is a breeze; the four pieces can be put together tool-free in 60 seconds. It is so well-balanced that after a while you can easily sit on it at full height without your feet touching the ground. The all-black design is stylish enough for any work or home environment and can be transported easily.

Dislikes: None

Price: $199. www.uncagedergonomics.com

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Pedal pusher

Marcy Cardio MiniCycle: Adjustable resistance bicycle crank and pedals.

Likes: It's cheap, simple and effective. Pumping these pedals as you sit at your desk becomes almost as blissfully mindless as twitching your legs. The 8-pound device comes with a tiny computer you probably won't use that displays timing, reps, total reps and calories. It doesn't really matter if the computer works, because it's too small to see, but just having the pedals is an irresistible invitation to get in some stealth calorie burning. The resistance dial is crude but effective; fully tightened, it provided enough resistance to give me a satisfying, sweat-free pedaling motion.

Dislikes: The minicycle will slide forward on the floor as you pedal unless you place something between it and the wall. Also, you will need a rather high desk — over 28 inches — so that your knees will not hit the bottom of your drawer. And not surprisingly for a low-cost product, I noticed bolted-on parts moving as I pedaled, so don't expect it to last forever. For something more durable, try the well-regarded DeskCycle (deskcycle.com; $199).

Price: $39.99. www.impex-fitness.com

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Stand and deliver

Uncaged Ergonomics Lift: Adjustable height four-legged aluminum-and-wood computer stand that turns your sit-down desk into a stand-up workstation.

Likes: Simple, stylish and effective. A relatively inexpensive way to instantly get the benefits of a stand-up desk for a minute, an hour, a day or whenever you get the urge. Simply squeezing a release bar on each side of the platform allows you to position your computer from 13 to 20 inches above the desk top. The workspace is 26.5 by 15.8 inches and has a 30-pound capacity; the device is 12 pounds and includes an optional lower shelf that installs tool-free with four bolts and wing nuts in about 30 seconds. That is all the work it takes to assemble this smartly designed product, which unfolds out of the box for instant use.

Dislikes: None

Price: $129. www.uncagedergonomics.com

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Pump up at your chair

Office Gym: Stretch cord device that straps onto your office chair to allow a variety of resistance exercises.

Likes: Many strength movements are possible, including overhead presses, chest presses, boxing-style punches, lumbar stretches, arm curls and delt raises. It comes with three levels of cords: easy, medium and hard resistance. Once set up, it is convenient to do legitimate exercises at your desk. The bars housing the stretch cords can quickly be repositioned for different exercises.

Dislikes: Although assembly looks simple on paper, in practice it's a pain. I found that merely threading the touchy nuts and bolts together was so difficult that it turned what I thought would be a 15-minute Phillips-head screwdriver assembly job into a two-hour ordeal. The straps, designed with a great deal of adjustability to fit different chair sizes, were nonetheless hard to get to fit tightly around the chair back. I was not surprised when the owner told me that the hardware and the bars are being simplified with a simple pop-pin design common to many sporting goods products.

Price: $129 plus shipping. Officegym.com

Wallack is the coauthor, with Santa Monica physical therapist Robert Forster, of "Healthy Running Step by Step." roywallack@aol.com

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