One of the latest trends in office ergonomics is the use of exercise balls to replace the traditional office chair. Is this a good idea? What does the science of ergonomics have to say? Let’s find out.
You’ve read the reports.
You know that sitting all day is bad for you.
So when a friend tells you about an interesting possible solution to this problem, you’re intrigued. The advice your friend gave you was to replace your office chair with an exercise ball. That way, they claimed, you get a little extra exercise and develop better posture at the same time.
Sounds great, right?
Well, not so fast…
Using exercise balls as office chairs seems to be taking off as the latest strategy aimed at reducing fatigue, discomfort and sitting disease, but is it really effective?
What do the ergonomics experts have to say?
Let’s find out.
The idea behind using an exercise ball instead of an office chair
The idea of sitting on an exercise ball instead of a traditional office chair is that the instability of an exercise ball requires the user to increase trunk muscle activation and thus increase core strength, improve posture and decrease discomfort.
Another benefit ball chair supporters claim is increased calorie burn. When the core is engaged, they say, the user burns more calories than they would sitting in a traditional office chair.
So, are these benefits the real deal? Is it smart to replace your office chair with an exercise ball?
Let’s take a look at the scientific evidence.
A look at the scientific evidence behind exercise balls as office chairs
Virtually all of the research points to exercise balls causing more problems than solutions, and most experts recommend sticking to a traditional (ergonomically correct) office chair.
One study found that, “Prolonged sitting on a stability ball does not greatly alter the manner in which an individual sits, yet it appears to increase the level of discomfort.”
Another study found that, “There was no difference in muscle activation profiles of each of the 14 muscles between sitting on the stool and ball. Calculated stability and compression values showed sitting on the ball made no difference in mean response values. The contact area of the seat-user interface was greatest on the exercise ball.”
According to the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders, “The use of stability balls as a chair may actually increase the risk of developing low back discomfort and may increase the risk of sustaining an injury due to the unstable nature of the balls.”
The bottom line: Exercise balls should be left for … exercise! And not used for sitting at your desk all day. Use them for small periods of time as part of your fitness and exercise plan.
A better solution is to select an ergonomic office chair, consider a sit-stand workstation, take stretch breaks throughout the day, and go for short walks to get your blood flowing.
Grab a free copy of our office ergonomics checklist to help your people design a more comfortable and efficient computer workstation.
Additional resources and articles on using exercise balls instead of office chairs
For more information, tips and resources, check out the links below.
- The Use of Stability Balls in the Workplace in Place of a Standard Office Chair
- The Claim – Replacing Your Desk Chair with an Exercise Ball Can Improve Your Posture
- Is Sitting On An Exercise Ball at Work a Bad Idea?
- What’s the Hubbub About Ball Chairs? Are They Really Ergonomic?
- Stability ball versus office chair: comparison of muscle activation and lumbar spine posture during prolonged sitting
- Do Ball Chairs Offer Benefits?
- How Ergonomic Are Ball Chairs?
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